When to Use Aerial LiDAR

Applications Across a Multitude of Professions

As professionals in more and more fields are discovering, aerial LiDAR has a multitude of applications.  Modern aerial LiDAR equipment mounted on UAVs makes possible the collection of high resolution elevation data used to create 3D models of objects, detailed Digital Terrain Models (DTMs), and Digital Elevation Models (DEMs).

Aerial LiDAR is used in engineering, construction, geology, forestry, conservation, historical preservation, recreation, mining, archaeology,  infrastructure, city planning, and even law enforcement.  Just a few of the applications of aerial LiDAR include:

  • Revealing ground characteristics that may hidden beneath vegetation
  • Showing slope change over time
  • Helping assess terrain for road, utility, and building construction
  • Pinpointing burial sites for law enforcement
  • Monitoring construction projects
  • Inspecting infrastructure
  • Scanning mines

When Precision Matters

The sheer amount of data amassed in a single drone flight makes it possible to produce more highly accurate maps and models than ever before. In terms of terrain maps, for instance, airplanes and helicopters used to be the only available options for collecting aerial LiDAR data.  The necessarily high flight altitude, however, compromised the accuracy of the data to a certain degree.

With modern drones, flights can be made at low altitudes, enabling a clearer picture of the terrain below.  Because LiDAR emits light pulses, cloudy days pose no problem, and in areas with a lot of trees or vegetation, LiDAR “peeks” between leaves and branches, penetrating all the way to the ground and revealing concealed features like creek beds and cliffs that would otherwise be impossible to detect.  In addition, using drones is quicker, cheaper, and easier than using airplanes or helicopters.

When Safety Matters

Aerial LiDAR keeps humans at a safe distance from hazardous conditions such as unstable slopes, rocky or steep terrain, busy highways or railroads, and active construction sites.  Instead of having to stop work on a jobsite in order to conduct data collection, a drone pilot can stay safely out of harm’s way. Drones can also be used to inspect areas like roofs and bridges that may be too difficult or dangerous for a human to access without risk.  Being able to keep people and equipment safe is a huge benefit.

When Cost Matters

Aerial LiDAR can prove cost effective in many ways. Time is not lost on a project for work stoppage in order to conduct a scan.  Scans can be done quickly.  The sheer amount of data collected–millions upon millions of discrete points per flight–usually negates any need for repeat visits to a site.  Using LiDAR scans to monitor construction helps ensure that work is done correctly and stays on budget and on time.

Is There Any Limit?

If there is a limit to the number of applications for aerial LiDAR, we seem to be far from finding it.  Innovative experts, such as the team at Darling Geomatics, continue to discover new uses for aerial LiDAR technology, harnessing it to solve problems,  improve workflow, and map and model with more clarity than we ever thought possible.

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