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Dr. Holley Moyes Receives NSF Major Research Instrumentation Grant

September 14, 2021
Over the past decade there has been a revolution in survey and mapping with the advent of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) imaging technology.  This method of rapid data capture creates detailed regional images of anthropogenic and natural landscapes to generate high-resolution relief models of ground surfaces.  While this method has radically changed the imaging of terrestrial environments, these systems often require Global Positioning System guidance to fly and navigate.  Contexts described as GPS-denied, which include subterranean spaces such as caves, rockshelters, mines, or building interiors, have seen limited use of LiDAR/UAV technologies due to this limitation.
Across the UC system there are many researchers that work in GPS-denied environments. Much of their research is focused on sensitive archaeological and heritage sites that are often under threat of destruction and cultural heritage loss. Instruments currently used to create 3D images of these sites such as total stations or scanners are often impractical in rugged environments and cannot be employed in tight or hard to reach places.  With the development of LiDAR rapid data capture systems, it is now possible to record and create 3D reconstructions of these sites as they exist today, not only enabling greater capacities for research, but ensuring that they will be digitally preserved for the future.
UC Merced has just been awarded an NSF MRI grant to acquire the Emescent Hovermap, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)-based LiDAR cyberinfrastructure. The system includes a hand-held and UAV-based Velodyne LiDAR with a proprietary SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) and processing system that may also be flown on a drone. Designed for the mining industry, the Hovermap is a robust tool that enables rapid capture and visualization of complex topologies. This new technology allows for multiple on-demand surveys and on-the-fly opportunistic data collection.
This grant was initiated by Principal Investigator Holley Moyes (Anthropology and Heritage Studies) and includes Co PIs Nicola Lercari and Mark Aldenderfer, (Anthropology and Heritage Studies), YangQuan Chen (Engineering) and our partner from the Qualcomm Institute at UCSD, Dominique Rissolo.  Plans for the Hovermap system include research projects as well as undergraduate and graduate student training. The team would like to thank Tuccoa Polk and Kiyomi Not Help Him for their assistance on the grant as well as the team from SPO. Thanks also for the support from the Dean of SSHA, Jeff Gilger and to the Office of Research and Economic Development under the direction of Interim Vice Chancellor Marjorie Zatz.