Technology has impacted just about every industry and one of the most important tools that are used today is called LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging. This is a remote sensing tool that is used to map utilities beneath the ground surface. LiDAR uses a laser, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and a unique GPS receiver. There are a variety of ways that LiDAR can be used and it is important for everyone to understand the basics so they can use this tool to meet their needs. 

How Does LiDAR Work? 

LiDAR uses light pulses in combination with data that is generated by airborne systems to generate detailed, 3D images regarding the shape of the Earth, its surface characteristics, and anything that might be present underground, such as utilities. 

Typically, airplanes and helicopters are used to acquire data from LiDAR systems over a tremendous geographic area; however, there are plenty of other platforms that use LiDAR as well. 

There are two specific types of LiDAR. They are: 

  • Topographic LiDAR: Topographic LiDAR uses infrared lasers to map its images 
  • Bathymetric LiDAR: Bathymetric LiDAR uses green light that penetrates the water to look at seafloors, riverbed elevations, and anything that might be present beneath surfaces that are covered in water 

LiDAR is used by a variety of professionals to examine man-made environments (such as cities and utilities) as well as natural environments (by research scientists), mapping areas with precision and flexibility. As technology continues to advance, LiDAR is only becoming more common. 

What Are the Main Advantages of LiDAR?

There are numerous reasons why engineers and other professionals use LiDAR detection systems. A few of the main benefits include: 

  • Collect Accurate Data Quickly: LiDAR is used to collect a tremendous amount of data in a short period of time. Thanks to the broad geographic range of modern LiDAR systems, it is possible to generate huge data sets almost instantly. 
  • Increased Area Density: Because LiDAR is often used to penetrate the ground, LiDAR can generate detailed models of objects that are being surveyed even if they are beneath the surface. This can be used to map utilities, delineate flood plains, and locate objects that might otherwise be hidden from view. 
  • Cut Through Vegetation: LiDAR is also powerful enough to cut through thick vegetation such as forest canopies, allowing it to create accurate models where photogrammetry is not able to be used. 
  • Flexibility Throughout the Day: Alternatives are often dependent on light; however, LiDAR can be used during the day or at night. Because it emits light itself, LiDAR does not rely on ambient light sources, making it more useful than photogrammetry. 
  • Integrations: LiDAR can integrate with a variety of other technologies. This means that data analysis can be automated, allowing professionals to make decisions based on actionable information generated from a LiDAR system. 

These are just a few of the many benefits of using a LiDAR system. As LiDAR tools continue to improve, its applications are only going to expand. 

The Relationship Between LiDAR and GPS

In order for LiDAR to be used effectively, it relies on GPS systems. The information generated from a LiDAR system has to be combined with accurate maps that are generated using GPS systems. Then, when LiDAR generates its datasets, it can be combined with maps, allowing the data to be laid on top of the most recent map information. Then, engineers can use this information to make decisions regarding how they are going to proceed with the project. 

For example, one of the most common applications of LiDAR involves utility location. Particularly when it comes to projects, it is important to make sure they are not going to strike any utilities that might be hidden underground. With LiDAR, it is possible to detect utilities that might be present beneath the surface. Then, using GPS information, the data can be laid on top of the map, allowing engineers to figure out what the next steps of the project are going to be. 

The Future of Engineering: The Expanding Applications of LiDAR

This is just a brief overview of LiDAR and its numerous applications in a variety of fields. Used by industries and research scientists alike, LiDAR uses a powerful laser combined with a GPS system and an inertial measurement unit to cut through vegetation and generate accurate information regarding what might be present beneath the surface. LiDAR is a perfect example of how technology is changing multiple industries. As this technology continues to improve, the applications of LiDAR are only going to continue to expand.

To learn more about LiDAR, contact SoftDig today! We would be happy to help you! 


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