What is LiDAR?
LiDAR stands for ‘light detection and ranging’. LiDAR technology is an active form of remote sensing and measures the distance between objects by hitting the target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light. Using these systems, professionals can investigate natural and man-made environments with both precision and flexibility.
How does LiDAR work?
LiDAR sensors are used by autonomous vehicles to navigate their environments, but they have many additional applications, across various industries and fields.
Digital Elevation Models
Digital elevation models (DEMs) are used to create a 3D representation of a terrain’s surface. Before LiDAR, we relied on ground surveys or photogrammetry, both of which were relatively slow. LiDAR has since made this process quicker and easier.
Population growth has put pressure on agricultural production and the gathering of reliable harvest statistics worldwide. Accurate data on the state of fields and crop conditions at each stage of growth is critical to farmers achieving their goals. LiDAR can be used for topographic analysis and prediction of soil properties in agricultural landscapes. Using these insights, farmers can analyse, model and predict crop yields in any given place, maximising profits.
LiDAR is also used to control crop yield through precision agriculture. The technology can be used to create an elevation map, which farmers can use to predict crop yield, determine which crops to plant in a given area, and save on expensive fertiliser.
There are two different types of LiDAR: topographical and bathymetric. The former uses an infrared laser to map the land, while the latter uses water-penetrating green light. In tandem, they can be used to form coastal surveys, giving maximum overlap between land and sea and in doing so, minimizing data gaps.
Urban flooding is becoming more and more frequent. Buildings, roads and riverbanks all have a notable effect on flood dynamics. LiDAR data provides the advanced topographical information needed to create effective flood relief simulation software.
Forest Canopy Measurement
LiDAR can be used to determine both canopy density (ratio of vegetation to ground) and canopy height (how far above the ground the top of the canopy is). Until now, forest canopy measurement was not easy, with previous techniques yielding largely inaccurate information. LiDAR solves this problem, offering data that determines the exact quality of the trees.
Oil and Gas Exploration
Differential Absorption LiDAR (DIAL) offers a new method of oil and gas exploration that is still in development. As well as being used to detect gases and particles, LiDAR mapping also provides an accurate 3D model of the terrain, minimising the project’s environmental impact.
Virtual 3D Designs
LiDAR scanning is an invaluable tool for accurately representing buildings and interiors in vivid detail. Thanks to its efficiency, speed and accuracy, it’s becoming widely used in architecture, construction and design. Architects and designers can use LiDAR technology to create virtual 3D representations of the projects they want to build.
Aerial LiDAR has many applications, from infrastructure and civil engineering surveys to agriculture, forestry, mining and quarrying. LIDAR systems used to be heavy and were previously only operated from manned planes or helicopters. However, manufacturers have now started developing compact, lightweight versions. UAV LiDAR has been one of the most eagerly anticipated technologies of the last 10 years, changing the way surveyors capture data and significantly reducing costs.
Additionally, with a ground-based LiDAR survey, it’s possible to capture the tiny details in building facades with great accuracy. This provides a valuable record of the present condition of the building. Sensors may also be used indoors to determine where things should go and act as proof of compliance with licensing regulations.
These are only a FEW examples out of many different ways industries are utilizing LiDAR technology.
Benefits of LiDAR:
- Most time efficient option available
- Lower employee’s exposure to hazards or protected areas.
- Knock weeks off your project saving time and money
- Better DATA = better decisions
- 3D data improves communication and level of understanding
- Quicker analysis of existing and as-built conditions
- New technology democratizes the process so anyone can collect and process the data