LiDAR is a popular remote sensing technology designed for measuring the precise distance of objects on the earth’s surface. Despite its inception in the 1960s, LiDAR gained popularity two decades later after the introduction of GPS technology. And with LiDAR applied in a myriad of fields today, it is essential to explore this technology and how it works.

What is LiDAR Technology?

LiDAR is an acronym for Light Detection and Ranging, also referred to as laser scanning or 3D scanning. By definition, LiDAR is a remote sensing technology that uses a pulsed laser to determine the object’s variable distance on the earth’s surface. As a result, these light pulses generate exact 3D data about the earth’s surface and the target object.

LiDAR instruments feature three critical elements: the scanner, GPS receive, and laser that facilitate its system. There are also other elements for data collection and analysis, which include the photodetector and optics. Today, most governments and private companies use LiDAR technology to acquire LiDAR data by installing these instruments in drones, airplanes, and helicopters.

Types of LiDAR Systems

Although LiDAR systems operate almost the same, they are divided into types: Airborne LiDAR and Terrestrial LiDAR.

Airborne LiDAR

These are LiDAR systems installed on a drone or helicopter for collecting data once it is activated. Airborne LiDAR usually produces light to the ground surface that bounces back to the sensor after hitting the object, returning an exact distance measurement. Typically, airborne LiDAR is categorized further into two types: Topography and Bathymetric LiDAR.

Terrestrial LiDAR

In contrast, Terrestrial LiDAR systems are fitted on moving vehicles or tripods to help collect accurate data points. These are among the most common LiDAR systems used to observe various objects such as highways, analyze infrastructure, and collect point clouds while inside a building. Like Airborne LiDAR, Terrestrial LiDAR is categorized into two types: Mobile and Static LiDAR.

How LiDAR Works

LiDAR systems work with the principle of sending laser light to a specific object on the earth’s surface and determining the time taken to return to the source. The calculation uses light speed that travels at about 186,000 miles per second to determine the distance. However, the calculations are determined by the system, which calculates incredibly faster in a more technical manner.

Due to the system’s swift calculation capabilities, LiDAR is applied in various developmental objects. Some of these objects are;

  • Oceanography: LiDAR helps authorities learn the exact depth of the ocean’s surface and locate any object in the sea, such as in a boat accident.
  • Terrain model: LiDAR can quickly determine terrain elevation, especially during roads, bridges, or large building construction, and help technicians conclude efficiently.
  • Agriculture and Archaeology: LiDAR is used mainly in agriculture to help analyze yield rates, seed dispersion, and crop scouting, as well as campaign planning and forest canopy mapping.

Bottom Line

The popularity of this pulsed laser technology offers more benefits to more industries, more so in determining distances between objects on the earth’s surface. Learning what LiDAR is, what it entails, and its types give great insights into this unique technology.

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