A camera able to create 3D images up to one kilometre (0.62 miles) away has been developed by a team in Edinburgh.
Physicists at Heriot-Watt University developed a technique which uses lasers to scan almost any object.
With extra research, the camera’s range could extend to 10km (6.2 miles), the team said.
It will primarily be used to scan objects such as vehicles – but is unable to detect human skin.
The reason is that skin does not reflect the laser in the same way as most other objects – meaning for those wishing to evade the camera’s gaze, stripping naked is an option.
Beyond capturing images of objects, the technology could also be used to keep track of the movement of rocks, or foliage growth.
The camera works, the team explained, by bouncing lasers off distant objects, and measuring the time it takes for the light to travel back to the detector.
The camera is able to record its subject to an accuracy of one millimetre.
With further modifications to the system’s image-processing software, the team said it believed the same technology could be used to measure an object’s speed and direction.
“Our approach gives a low-power route to the depth imaging of ordinary, small targets at very long range,” said Aongus McCarthy, a research fellow at Heriot-Watt.
Mr McCarthy added: “It is clear that the system would have to be miniaturised and made more rugged, but we believe that a lightweight, fully portable scanning depth imager is possible and could be a product in less than five years.”