LIDAR is a laser-based remote sensing technology and stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It is a technology widely used in the domain of geographical information systems (GIS) for surveying and mapping different kind of natural resources and infrastructures.
As a matter of fact the LIDAR technology is being used in numerous scientific fields, related to geomatics, which are relying on high accuracy definition of terrestrial three-dimensional points position. This includes to combine these data with an extremely precise and faithful calculation of the distances and angles between them. LIDAR is well known and often chosen for its ability of producing high-resolution maps for a broad range of activities like remote sensing, atmospheric sensing, geomatics, geography, geomorphology, archaeology, forestry, contour mapping, laser altimetry, geographic informatics, etc.
Among its specific features, the LIDAR can penetrate the vegetation. Therefore, it allows to “see” what is underneath. This is made possible thanks to the 3 echoes of the LIDAR embedded on our drone whose portion of the high frequency light pulses goes through the vegetation before reaching the ground. The reflection of these pulses is captured by the LIDAR allowing to reveal objects in a point of cloud, even the ones that are under the flora. Also, this technology is ultra precise and accurate thanks to embedded RTK (Real Time Kinetic) positioning.
The LIDAR technology efficiency has been approved by the market increasing needs and demands. Unfortunately, LIDAR systems used to be heavy (usually from 20 to 100 kg) and were previously only operated from manned planes or helicopters. Due to the prohibiting costs of such operations, this kind of sensors were not costly efficient enough and thus, not attractive for small-area surveying (of less than 100 hectares).
Hopefully, LIDAR sensors manufacturers have developed a compact and lighter version, that can be embedded on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). For a couple years already, the aerial LIDAR scanning by UAV sector has been experiencing a dynamic and ongoing growth. The main advantages of this method are the undeniable cost reduction compared to helicopters, the elimination of the endangering human lives risk and the speed of implementation of this solution.