New Jersey Star-Ledger

With two laser-point GPS units on its roof, the vehicle looks like something out of the movie "Ghostbusters," but does far more than battle apparitions.

The blue van that recently meandered through the Sandy-ravaged areas of Ocean County was actually part of a project by Rutgers University using geospatial mapping to collect 3-D images of hurricane damage to help plan a smart recovery.

Unlike the human eye or photographs, these images can detect minute fractures in the roadbed that could spell trouble for the infrastructure below if water gets in and freezes. They can determine if utility poles are leaning even slightly, alerting power companies about which ones to replace before the next storm.

They even see through debris piled high against structures to see if a building is off its foundation — even by a fraction of an inch.

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