BIG BAT CAVE LIDAR PROJECT
Ken Bailey and Ben Shinabery
Through the collaboration between The Kentucky Karst Conservancy (KKC) and Qk4, Inc., the Big Bat Cave LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) project is collecting, mapping and preserving the fifty-sixth longest cave in the world. It is our primary goal to digitally archive the cave to know better how to preserve its history.
Cave mapping generally is collected by hand with compass and measuring tape. Electronic distance meters are being used in cave mapping they are based on the compass and tape survey methods collecting one data point at a time. Cave mapping using LiDAR scanning enhances this process by collecting millions of data points while referencing them horizontally and vertically in 3D space.
LiDAR 3D scanning technology analyzes environments to collect data in a point cloud. Digital 3D models of the existing features are then constructed using software. For over a year, the KKC and QK4 have been mapping Big Bat Cave in Breckenridge County, Kentucky with LiDAR. We continue to develop our process in collecting and analyzing the geospatial data and gaining valuable experience below the surface.
The Kentucky Karst Conservancy (KKC) owns the land rights for the Mushroom Entrance to Big Bat Cave. The KKC maintains access to the Natural Entrance through a good working relationship with the landowner. Qk4, Inc. has provided the LiDAR technology and has created the digital subsurface mapping. One of the project goals is to expose students to new innovative ways of exploring the world around them. The KKC maintains an open invitation to students/staff at the University of Louisville. Students from Jefferson Community College and Southern Polytechnic State University in Georgia have also worked on the project. Any student that participates has full access to the data set. The project has been self-funded and all personal cave equipment has been purchased, borrowed, or made by the participants.
The research possibilities in Cave LiDAR mapping are just beginning to be explored. Caves have been a preserved record of our past history and climate conditions. This LiDAR data set may shed insights into these paleo-climates and help the KKC preserve the story of Big Bat Cave.