What is LIDAR?
LiDAR is a popular remote sensing method used to measure the exact distance of an object on the earth’s surface. According to the American Geological Institute, LiDAR uses a pulsed laser to calculate an object’s variable distances from the earth’s surface. These light pulses generate precise 3-dimensional information about the earth’s surface and the target object. A LiDAR device has three main components – scanner, laser, and GPS receiver. Other elements that play a vital role in data collection and analysis are photodetectors and optics. Helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and aircraft are often used to obtain LiDAR data.
Types of LIDAR Systems
LiDAR systems are divided into two types depending on their functionality – Airborne LiDAR and Terrestrial LiDAR.
- Airborne LIDAR: Airborne LiDAR is installed on a helicopter or drone to collect data. Airborne LiDAR emits light towards the ground surface as soon as it is activated and returns to the sensor immediately after it hits the object, giving an accurate measurement of the distance it travels. Airborne LiDAR is divided into two types – Topological LiDAR and Bathymetric LiDAR.
- Terrestrial LIDAR: Unlike Airborne Lidar, Terrestrial LiDAR is installed on moving vehicles or tripods on the ground surface to collect accurate data points. These are widely used for observing roads, analyzing infrastructure, and even collecting point clouds from inside and outside buildings. There are two types of Terrestrial LiDAR systems – Mobile LiDAR and Static LiDAR.
Advantages of LIDAR Technology
LIDAR is a highly advantageous measurement system for a number of industries mainly due to the following factors.
LIDAR can collect a million points of data per second, making it an extraordinarily fast method of measurement. In-building scans take an average of three minutes, while large-scale measurements can be completed in less than an hour. This makes LIDAR one of the fastest measurement methods available.
LIDAR systems collect extremely dense data by leaving a very small gap between points. This means the results are extremely accurate.
When it comes to land measurement with LIDAR, there are numerous options to choose from. LIDAR systems can be mounted on a variety of platforms according to the needs of an application. While a fixed tripod may be sufficient for small-scale measurements, aircraft, helicopters or unmanned aerial vehicles are required for larger areas. LIDAR data can be collected at any time of the day or night, as it uses light as a measurement tool.
LIDAR systems run faster than other systems and can be operated remotely, making them a good choice in places that may be unsafe for people working as operators to stay for long periods of time. Their ability to be mounted on aircraft also allows them to be used to investigate areas that are more dangerous than humans normally reach.
Usage Areas of LIDAR Technology
LIDAR technology is used effectively in many areas today. Some of these are as follows.
The use of LIDAR in cartography is quite extensive. Some examples of LIDAR applications in the field of cartography are:
- Digital Elevation Model: Digital elevation models (DEMs) are used to create a 3D representation of the surface of a land. Prior to LiDAR, both relied on relatively slow ground surveys or photogrammetry. Using LiDAR has made this process faster and easier.
- Mapping: LiDAR is used in the creation of maps with its high resolution and accuracy. Its 3D capabilities cause it to be preferred in producing high-resolution contour maps as well as mapping terrain models such as mountain topography.
- Terrestrial scanning: In terrestrial laser scanning applications, LiDAR is used to create a three-dimensional point cloud that contains all the details and coordinate information of an object. Hundreds of point clouds are generated per square meter from the scanned surface. These point clouds make it possible to generate accurate vector data for architectural and engineering projects.
- Aerial scanning: Aerial scanning has many applications, from infrastructure and civil engineering research to agriculture, forestry, mining and quarrying. LIDAR was previously operated only by aircraft or helicopters. However, manufacturers have now begun to develop compact, lightweight versions. UAV LiDAR has become one of the most anticipated technologies of the last 10 years, changing the way mapmakers capture data and significantly reduced costs.
LIDAR is used as a basic measuring tool in mines and quarries. By their nature, mines and quarries are often located in regions with limited access, rugged terrain and limited light. As a result, traditional measuring methods are largely impractical when compared to lidar and traditional measuring methods. LIDAR produces accurate and effective results by offering a comprehensive solution that can be applied to quarries and mines. Some of the applications of LIDAR in the mining industry are:
- Oil and Gas Exploration: Differential Absorption LiDAR (DIAL) offers a new method of oil and gas exploration currently under development. Besides being used to detect gases and particles, LiDAR mapping minimizes the environmental impact of the project by providing an accurate 3D model of the terrain.
- Mines: LiDAR is also used in quarries. It can be used to survey the surrounding land and measure the environmental impact of the project. Using LiDAR, existing quarry sites can be precisely measured down to a few centimeters.
- Calculation of Ore Volumes: LiDAR can be used to collect data on what is below the ground surface to calculate ore volumes. The scanning of such areas is mostly done with UAVs.
LIDAR has also started to be used in the field of transportation. Some examples of their use in this field are as follows.
- Transportation Planning: LiDAR’s high resolution and mapping accuracy make it an ideal solution for planning transportation and road networks. Air and land based LiDAR can be used together to capture data in large areas as well as fine details.
- Road Design: LiDAR data can be used to map the final road design, which helps create a stable road free of any design flaws and minimizes the negative effects of new road construction and maintenance. This is a very serious advantage, especially in high-risk areas with rough terrain.
- Parking Space Finder: LiDAR technology can be used in autonomous vehicles to find suitable parking spaces in a parking lot. In situations where parking spaces are limited and the vehicle needs to fit in a smaller parking space, a LiDAR sensor can guide the vehicle safely.
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