Digital cave mapping is still in its infancy but great strides have been made. Some of the largest cave chambers in the world have now been scanned with high definition scanners with outstanding results. Not only do these scans result in high accuracy measurements of the cave passages but post-processing gives excellent ways of viewing the resulting cave model.

 The first 3d laser scan I saw was Wang Burma in Malaysia in 2009. This was just a monochrome model but the definition was more than adequate.

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More recently a video fly-through of Gomantong Cave in Sabah has been produced as part of a biogeomorphology study at Gomantong Forest Reserve.


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Hidden Earth 2013 had two presentations on 3d laser scanning, a project in China where three large chambers were scanned resulting in 250 gigabytes of data. Not for the average caver's pocket I'm afraid as the scanner cost £54000.

The other presentation featured a handheld scanner called Zebedee which is just waved about while you walk along the cave passage. The results were very acceptable although there were some problems encountered during data processing. The range was fairly limited, not suitable for large caves. The good news ia that it was much more affordable, only £14000!