scene in a relatively short period of time and was extraordinarily useful in their investigation.

Long and Harrison also said UK agencies have scanned vehicles, train crashes, river crossings, buildings and planes. From the point-cloud data, investigators in the UK can develop two-dimensional line drawings, three-dimensional models, animations and interactive multimedia packages.

The system also has training applications. Currently there are driving, pursuit and use-of-force simulators. Using HDS, police officers could be taken into a virtual world to practice their skills, or taken back to actual events and debriefed on their own or other police officers' actions.

HDS technology could be used for tabletop exercise, and in addition to training, the technology has a real-time application in tactical situations. Harrison explained that if there were a hostage situation on an aircraft, a similar aircraft could be used to create a virtual representation of the problem.

"Within about two minutes, you could scan the interior of the second aircraft, upload the data and hand virtual goggles to the tactical team," he said. With that data, combined with other real-time intelligence, the team could explore the interior of the aircraft before taking action.

In the UK, government agencies are beginning to use HDS to document critical infrastructure as a means of furthering emergency planning. It would be valuable for fire, and emergency medical or tactical teams to have access to virtual information about buildings.

Imagine a tactical team virtually touring the inside of a school where children are being held hostage. As with the aircraft scenario, the HDS could produce a virtual school, and combined with real-time information, could give tactical teams an edge over the hostage-takers.

For this to be effective, though, the HDS scanning of critical structures must take place before the incident. As we go forward in the 21st century, we will likely see this technology take an important role in criminal investigations, civil liability, training and emergency preparedness.

Lt. Raymond E. Foster  |  Contributing Writer