LiDAR with Lower Costs and Higher Performances

Table of Contents

Introduction
A Better Way to See
LiDAR in Action
LiDAR and Self-driving vehicles
LiDAR Here, There and Everywhere

Introduction

This article looks at how higher performance and lower costs are driving a wide range of new applications for the decades-old remote sensing technology.

Source: GIS Lounge

The term LiDAR is formed by combining “light” and “radar”. It uses laser pulses to create high-resolution 3D images. It calculates the distance by measuring the time taken by the laser pulses to travel to and from a surface or object. The differences in return time for each pulse create a digital 3D image.

LiDAR was first used as a way to measure clouds by the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research in the early 1960s. In 1971, LiDAR gained immediate recognition when Apollo 15 astronauts mapped the surface of the moon more accurately than ever before using a LiDAR system. More recently, LiDAR was one among a number of sensing technologies deployed on the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) mission which will use LiDAR to map an asteroid.

This use of LiDAR in outer space is outstanding, especially as it may help in understanding humans’ past and their origination. Today, LiDAR has an extensive range of applications, from mapping coastlines to protecting against natural disasters, and from self-driving cars to identifying which farmland will produce the highest crop yields.

A Better Way to See

LiDAR is made highly versatile by two characteristics. Firstly, LiDAR can target a wide range of materials, including chemical compounds, rocks, rain, clouds, and fog. This enables it to “see through” barriers like water and forest cover. Secondly, it can capture physical features at high resolutions; for instance, airborne LiDAR can map land elevations with two centimeter accuracy from 10,000 feet.

LiDAR in Action

Midwest Archeological Center of the National Park Service recently used a LiDAR system mounted on an aircraft to map the largest surviving group of prehistoric mounds in the United States. The National Monument, situated at the Effigy Mounds National Monument on the Mississippi River near Harper’s Ferry, Iowa, contains more than 100 animal-shaped and conical mounds built by American Indian tribes during the Woodland period (1000 BC to 1000 AD). The LiDAR project helped in identifying mounds which were not documented previously and gave insight into how all of the mounds were built.

LiDAR Image of Effigy Mounds National Monument.

LiDAR Image of Effigy Mounds National Monument.

LiDAR and Self-driving vehicles

The 3D mapping capabilities of LiDAR make it a perfect technology for self-driving vehicles. LiDAR differentiates between several kinds of objects, which enable vehicles to distinguish between a person on a bike and a person walking, and to detect the direction and speed each is moving.

LiDAR for self-driving vehicles.

LiDAR for self-driving vehicles.

LiDAR Here, There and Everywhere

There are four important components in a LiDAR system: a laser to emit pulses, a scanner to direct the pulses, a receiver to detect and measure, and a specialized GPS receiver to guarantee accurate positioning. As each of these components becomes more powerful, smaller, and less expensive, the potential for LiDAR applications increases exponentially.

The two instances here prove the rapid progress being made. Currently, the most advanced LiDAR systems capture up to 6 million points per second; within 10 years, sophisticated Single photon LiDAR (SPL) systems could be capturing a billion points per second. In the same time frame, LiDAR capabilities that cost $80,000 today could be available for less than $1,000 in the future.

Teledyne DALSA

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Teledyne DALSA.

For more information on this source, please visit Teledyne DALSA.

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