LiDAR technology is a remote sensing technology that measures the distance to an object by illuminating the target with laser and then analyzing the reflected light. The laser pulses travel at the speed of light to the object and the laser is then reflected back to the sensors. The time taken for the pulses to hit the object and be reflected back to the sensor is calculated and then used to calculate the distance to the object. LiDAR technology has several applications and uses across various industries and fields. Below are some of the applications of LiDAR.
DEM stands for digital elevation model. It is the technique used to measure the elevation values in various industries including construction and other surfaces positions. LiDAR technology has made it extremely easy to capture and measure the elevation height. LiDAR technology not only makes it easy but also faster and more affordable to measure these heights as opposed to other methods of survey.
LiDAR technology is precise enough to acquire some very accurate data regarding surface topography. Other methods such as photogrammetry may miss some of the relevant details about things such as the surface value of the hidden vegetation but LiDAR captures all the information required.
- Soil profiling:
LIDAR technology is ideal in finding the exact nature and profile of each type of soil. This information is then used to determine what soil is best used for which type of crop and which soil requires which type of manure. Soil profiling cannot be done by other methods of surveying such as photogrammetry because of their inability to deduce accurate data from the soil samples collected.
- Forest planning and management:
Forest planning and management is one of the most common uses of LiDAR technology. The data collected by LiDAR sensors can be leveraged to produce accurate data about the exact mapping of the forest design and structure. The data can also be used to plan which areas are ideal for forest plantation and which areas are not preferred for forest cover.
- Forest fire management:
LiDAR technology is important in predicting potential forest fire. The data mined can then be used to make mitigating plans to prevent the spread of the fires. In addition to that, the technology is also ideal in mapping potential areas that are prone to forest fires and set up structures to control the fires in the long run.
- Precision forestry:
LiDAR data is ideal for precision forestry where the data is leveraged to provide adequate information for researchers to come up with structures that will ensure high wood yield and high wood quality at a relatively lower cost than it would normally cost. In addition to that, this would also help in maintaining the environment.
- Tourism and park management:
LiDAR data is essential in providing the right plan for tourism and park management. This is made possible by the analysis of the data and soil samples to come up with a plan of what area would be ideal for use for crop growing and what area would best be suited for park management.
- Environmental assessment:
The data generated by LiDAR sensors is used effectively for environmental assessment where researchers are able to tell which areas require patching and which areas have been affected by human activities. In addition to that, the data is also used to map areas that require environmental attention and which ones require improvement.
- Biodiversity for birds:
LiDAR technology is able to tell which species of birds are available in the forest. This is mainly done through the analysis of the type of trees and species of shrubs that exist in a forest because these are what determine the type of birds that will exist in a given ecosystem.
- Flood model:
LiDAR sensors are known to capture some very intimate data on the river. This type of data includes the nature and positioning of the river bank. It is then used to predict the possibility of flooding happening in the area and the possible mitigation plans that need to be put in place.
- Ecological and land classification:
LiDAR technology helps in the provision of both the physical and the biological classification of the land. This information helps in proper classification of the land such that the biological beings stay on ideal land while the physical remains in the physical land.
- River survey:
LiDAR pulses are able to measure river data such as the depth, the length and the flow of the river. This helps in understanding the different aspects about the river and also helps in the overall planning to avoid natural calamities such as floods.
- Pollutant modeling:
The data collected by LiDAR is especially important because of its ability to differentiate between pollutants and non-pollutants both in the river and on land. LiDAR is therefore able to detect pollutants such as sulphur in order to help keep the environment safe and to avoid contamination with both water and physical land.
LiDAR technology is one of the most common technologies used in the field of mapping. Unlike other data collection methods such as surveying and photogrammetry, LiDAR has the ability to collect more accurate data at a faster rate and give the exact map of a given area. LiDAR also gives 3D mapping of an area such as a forest or a river with the exact dimensions.
- Coastline mapping and management:
LiDAR is also used by researchers and other geologist to map coastlines and identify the exact structure of coastlines. This also helps in the management of the coastline with the intention of knowing what species exist along the coastline and what effects a decreasing coastline would have on the eco-system.
- Road mapping and planning:
Road mapping and road planning is one of the most common uses of LiDAR technology. People in the transport industry rely on LiDAR technology to map the structure of the road and to plan where the road will go through. It also helps in determining the length of the road against the structure of the terrain.
- Oil and gas exploration:
In the field of oil and gas, LiDAR technology is used to identify which areas have the oil and gas deposits. The laser pulses are struck against the ore and are able to return data that shows what areas have oil or gas deposits to help geologists know exactly where they need to mine.
LiDAR has several uses in the mining industry. The first use is in determination of what minerals lay beneath the surface of the earth. The other use of LiDAR in the mining sector is found in the analysis of the mines structure to prevent them from collapsing after they have been drilled for minerals.
- Archeological discovery:
LiDAR has already been used in the archeological discovery. The laser pulses are struck on the surface of the earth and are then able to return the data containing the archeological artifacts that are found beneath the earth surface. This method is not only more efficient than the ancient methods but it also save a lot of time.
- View shed analysis:
LiDAR technology through the Digital Elevation Model (DEM) can be used to perform a viewshed analysis on a piece of land to determine what is visible on one angle and what is visible on the other angle.
- Solar energy technology:
LiDAR technology is instrumental in the field of solar energy. Solar energy requires that the sun’s rays strike directly at the solar panels so that the energy can then be harnessed and stored for use. LiDAR technology concentrates the sun’s rays on the solar panel to help in harnessing all the possible solar energy.
- Residential lighting:
Given that light is a freely available resource from the sun; LiDAR technology has found usage in the residential lighting space. LiDAR is used to direct the rays of the sun as they strike the building to ensure that the sun’s rays avail enough light to all the houses within the residential area.
- Glacier level changes:
One of the most important uses of LiDAR technology is the determination of climate change information. One of the ways in which this is achieved is through the collection of data regarding the changes in the level of glaciers. LiDAR pulses collect this data and avail the data to experts who are then able to tell how much of the glaciers has melted and what this means to the world.
LiDAR technology is used in gaming in recreating the exact environment in games. For instance, in a track game, the laser pulses from LiDAR will be used to capture the exact color scheme and structure of the track and then fed into the computer to create the race track.
- Crime scene reconstruction:
LiDAR technology can be used to reconstruct an accident scene and help in an accident investigation. Through the data collected at the scene of the accident, LiDAR gives the exact measurements of the vehicles and the roads and experts are then able to determine how the accident happened.
- LiDAR for architecture:
Architects have found LiDAR technology quite useful especially as far as gathering terrain information is concerned. The LiDAR pulses collect data regarding the area or terrain in which a building needs to be erected and tell whether it is safe to put up a structure in that area or not.
- Recording of building:
Ground based LiDAR can be used to record the inside of a building and also capture the interior design of the building. This is mainly used by the law enforcement people to map out an unfamiliar building to identify hideouts.
- Cellular network planning:
LiDAR technology is also used in the field of telecommunication where it has been used in mapping of the telecommunication boosters. It can be used to tell the distance between two communication boosters and the positioning of each of the boosters at any given area. This information helps in the planning of the boosters to ensure the cellular network remains strong.
- Vehicle automation:
The autonomous vehicle industry has benefited more from LiDAR than any other industry. Today, there are more and more autonomous vehicles on the road and each of these depends on LiDAR technology to move and avoid collision with obstacles on the road.
LiDAR is used in the meteorological department to make predictions about potential weather patterns and make forecasts of the climate within a given region. The information is collected and analyzed by meteorological experts and then used to forecast the weather and climatic conditions of an area.
The application of LiDAR in geology is not limited to one given area. LiDAR technology can be used in the determination of soil structure to show what crops or species of plants can grow in that region. It can also be used to tell what minerals exist in a given area.
LiDAR technology is the most efficient technology in the field of astronomy. The technology has been harnessed to tell the distance between two planets in the solar system and to also determine the structure of the soil and other terrain factors on other planets such as Mars. It is also through LiDAR technology that astronomers are able to tell what kind of life exists on Mars.
- Atmospheric physics:
It is now possible to explain some of the most complex atmospheric information thanks to LiDAR technology. Through LiDAR pulses, information such as the composition of the atmospheric gases and other atmospheric constituents can be calculated precisely. Scientists and physicists are able to tell what amount of the atmosphere constitutes gases and what amount constitutes pollutants.
LiDAR data and pulses are used to collect all the data and details regarding the ocean including the depth of the ocean and the composition of the ocean water. All this is captured under oceanography. Researchers are also able to tell the species that exist deep down the ocean.
- Military uses:
LiDAR has several uses in the military. The military depends on LiDAR technology to map out the exact terrain of the battlefield and know the exact position of the enemy and their capacity. The technology can also be used to locate all enemy weaponry including tankers and help in neutralizing the threat on a much larger scale.
- Speed guns:
LiDAR in law enforcement is one of the most common uses of LiDAR technology. Police officers and other law enforcement agencies use LiDAR to tell the exact speed of a vehicle and know whether a driver is over speeding or not. The speed guns use laser pulses and the speed of the vehicle is calculated by obtaining the reflection time of the pulses.
- 3D Imaging:
3D imaging is one of the best and most common uses of LiDAR technology. LiDAR has been used by various researchers and experts to get 3D images of an area which represents the exact map or image of the object being mapped. This gives much more details regarding the object or the map than other survey methods.
- Wind turbines:
LIDAR is used in the wind farm to calculate the direction and strength of wind. LIDAR attached to the turbine helps to change the direction of the blade to generate more power.
- Dune monitoring:
LiDAR is instrumental in the monitoring of the dessert dunes and the way in which they change their structure. This information is then used to calculate the pattern of the dessert winds and weather in general which is used to make several predictions that are instrumental in keeping extreme weather under control.
- Urban survey:
LiDAR is used in the survey of the urban structure and planning. The technology is used to map out the exact points within an area and tell exactly where all the points are located. The information can then be used to plan out the area and place each important installation where they are supposed to be.
- Airport infrastructure:
LiDAR technology can be used to map out the entire airport infrastructure and pinpoint the exact location of each point within the airport. This information is important in ensuring airport security and helps in preventing any infiltration or accidents within the airport since this is a high risk area.
- Tunnel surveying:
LiDAR technology comes in handy when data collection in areas that cannot be easily accessed by humans is needed. The areas such as inside tunnels are critical in analyzing the viability or the safety of the tunnel. LiDAR pulses are then used to scan inside the tunnel and return important data that is needed.
- Tsunami prediction and modeling:
LiDAR technology is also useful in the determination and prediction of tsunamis. The data collected is used to forecast the possibility of a tsunami and even create a model of the tsunami to determine how severe the tsunami would be. This helps in mitigating the damage likely to be caused by the tsunami.
- Topographical mapping:
LiDAR is used to create a topographical map of the fields and reveal the slopes and sun exposure of the farmlands. This data helps to build a seamless terrain of the area and map out the areas that are open and accessible to sunlight and those that have been shielded from sunlight.
- Crop mapping in orchards and vineyards:
LiDAR technology is also used in mapping out crops in orchards and vineyards. The data helps in creating a precise pattern of the crops and also in the determination of the type of crops that need to be planted in a given area.
- Soil sensing:
Agriculturalists use LiDAR technology for soil profiling and also for soil sensing. Through this, researchers will be able to know which areas of the soil require what type of fertilizer and what areas do not need fertilizer. It also helps to know what soil will require fertilizer to achieve the highest yields.
- Obstacle detection in autonomous vehicles:
This is probably one of the biggest uses of LiDAR technology in the recent past. Autonomous vehicles use LiDAR technology to sense obstacles in their paths and to avoid collisions with other obstacles or vehicles on the road.
- Collision avoidance:
LiDAR sensors provide the necessary data to determine the exact position where there are obstacles in the environment. This helps in steering the vehicles in the right direction and also in the avoidance of impact whenever a vehicle meets another object. This technology comes in handy in autonomous or self driving vehicles.
- Determination of topographic features:
LiDAR technology is used in geology to determine subtle topographic features such as river channels and river terraces. Through this, experts can be able to map out the exact course of the river and the pattern the river channel follows as it flows downstream.
- Used for detecting faults and measuring uplifts in soil.
Detection of soil faults and other soil features would be difficult and time consuming using other technologies such as survey. LiDAR pulses are able to penetrate the soil structure to identify what faults lie beneath the soils and help in improving the soil quality for use in various industries.
- Terrain modeling:
LiDAR technology is helpful in the creation of a detailed map of a given terrain through development of 3D maps of the terrain. Detailed terrain modeling will allow soil scientists to see changes in landform breaks and changes in slope which show a pattern in spatial relationships.
- Atmospheric remote sensing:
The determination of atmospheric components was not advanced before the introduction of LiDAR technology. LiDAR is used in the determination of cloud profiles, wind measuring and quantification of various atmospheric profiles. This helps experts in knowing exactly what the atmosphere is comprised of and also in the determination of the exact of pollutants in the atmosphere if any.
- Calculation of ore volumes:
LiDAR technology has the capability of penetrating the earth surface to gather data that is found deep in the ore. Once the laser pulses have accessed the ore beneath the earth surface, LiDAR is used in the calculation and determination of the ore volumes by scanning of the areas.
- Robotic mining:
Mining is a high risk business and gathering data from the ore inside the mines can be a difficult undertaking. This is why robots are sometimes used in the mining business to penetrate the mines to reduce the risk of loss of human life. LiDAR sensors are used in obstacle detection during mining by the robotic mining vehicles.
- Ground elevation:
LiDAR technology is instrumental in the determination of ground elevation in circumstances where the same cannot be arbitrarily measured. It gives accurate data of the elevation of the ground and also shows the 3D imaging of the elevation to show the exact picture of how the ground elevation occurred.
- Forest canopy measurement:
The measurement of forest canopy is not easy and most of the time the data collected by these other measurement techniques is not usually accurate. LiDAR is employed to measure all the characteristics of the data regarding the forest canopy including but not limited to the height, the length and the discrepancy of the canopies. This data helps in giving the exact quality of the trees.
- General forest management and planning:
LiDAR technology is dependent upon by forest experts to provide data that can be used to manage the forests. LiDAR can be used to measure the tree qualities of the forests, mapping of the forests in a given area and the degradation of the forests through human activities.
- Study of forest ecology and habitat:
Sometimes it may be difficult to obtain all the information regarding the forest ecology using manual means. LiDAR comes in handy in collecting all the details of the forest ecology including the flora and fauna found in the forests and the species that can survive and those that cannot survive.
- Quantification of forest fire fuel:
LiDAR technology comes in handy when trying to quantify the forest fire fuel. This data is important in the prediction of forest fires and development of mechanisms that can be used to mitigate or control the forest fires in future.
- Estimation of carbon absorption:
Estimation of carbon absorption cannot be accurately determined using other forms of measurement. LiDAR technology measures the exact amount of carbon absorption in forests and helps in creating a profile of the forest and the determination of the continuity of the forest.
- Lunar Laser ranging:
Previously, it was cumbersome to measure the distance between the moon and the earth using other forms of measurements because the data returned was affected by several factors hence not very accurate. LiDAR is used to measure the distance between the earth and the moon using laser ranging which is more accurate and takes a shorter period of time of time.
- Autonomous cruise control:
LiDAR has been used in the manufacture of autonomous vehicle that have cruise control feature in them. LiDAR is used during the cruise control to maintain safe distance between vehicles and keep them from hitting other vehicles or objects. This feature also helps take care of the river in case the driver is incapacitated during driving.
- Hydrographic LiDAR survey:
Gathering of data over water surfaces is not easy because of the vastness of the water bodies and the inaccessibility of the depths of the water bodies. Hydrographic survey is the form of surveying where the laser pulses collect data over water bodies through airborne mechanisms. They use water penetrating 532nm laser beams.
- Sewer and manhole maintenance:
LiDAR technology can collect data through sensors that are mounted on vehicles. The sensors can then be used to gather data in areas that may be too dangerous for humans to enter. Areas such as manholes and sewers are dangerous to access and therefore LiDAR sensors come in handy when collecting data from these areas.
- Landslide analysis:
It is now easier to collect data regarding landslides using LiDAR than it was in the past. Through the use of LiDAR, landslides can now be predicted and the information used to determine the nature and the strength of the landslides. Measures can then be put in place to mitigate the effects of the landslides.
- Terrestrial scanning:
LiDAR terrestrial scanning is responsible for creating 3D models of some very complex objects including piping networks, roadways and many more. The laser pulses from LiDAR can easily be used to penetrate structures and walls to reveal what is beneath them.
- Aerial scanning:
Measuring agricultural productivity, distinguishing faint archeological remains, measuring tree canopy heights and measuring volcano uplift. All these features can be determined by use of LiDAR technology thanks to the accuracy and fast way of data collection by using LiDAR technology.
- Drainage analysis:
LiDAR is used in civil engineering for drainage analysis in large scale developments. The underground drainage design of a construction structure may prove difficult to map out using other methods of survey. LiDAR pulses have the capability of penetrating the walls and the surface to reveal the structure of the drainage underneath.
- Erosion control and storm water treatment:
LiDAR technology plays an important role in predicting soil erosion thanks to the topographical mapping techniques used in LiDAR. The data helps in determining the gradient of the land hence showing the direction of flow of water which helps in the controlling of storm water.
- Roadway design:
LiDAR technology is commonly used in the designing of the roadways both in urban and rural areas. The data collected by LiDAR can be used to map out the exact road design especially where the roadway is not predictable. This helps in creating a stable road design that is free of any design flaws.
- Bathymetric mapping:
This is the study of underwater depth of lake or ocean floors. LiDAR laser is designed in such a way that it can penetrate water to the depths and then reflected back to give the exact measurement of the distance between the surface of the water and the floor of the lake.
- Measuring cloud heights, phase and other temporal statistics:
LiDAR pulses are capable of penetrating the clouds and as such they are used to measure cloud statistics such as the cloud heights and the cloud phases. This helps in determining how far the clouds are from the earth’s surface and other characteristics of the clouds.
- Aerosol distribution data:
Sometimes the atmospheric composition includes aerosols and other components that need to be measured and determined. LiDAR pulses are used to measure the aerosol composition of the atmosphere and relay the data to meteorologists who the use it for other purposes.
- Gas composition data:
LiDAR technology is also used in the determination of gas composition in the atmosphere. Through this data, experts are able to tell the precise amount of gas found within a particular region such as the atmosphere. This information helps experts in arriving at some vital conclusion.
- Glacier thickness and movement:
Besides the measurement of glacier heights and melting rate, LiDAR technology is also instrumental in measuring the glacier thickness and its movement throughout a given area. This data also comes in handy when calculating the rate at which the glacier melts and hence used in the prediction of climatic conditions.
- Forest structure and inventory characterization:
One of the most important uses of LiDAR technology is in the determination of forest cover and forest structure. The data collected can give information about the design and structure of the forest cover including the inventory of the forest such as the number of trees and the height of each individual tree.
- Vegetation mapping:
A given area containing any amount of vegetation can be mapped effectively by use of LiDAR technology. The LiDAR pulses are able to draw an exact map of the vegetation to help geologists and researchers create an impression of the vegetation of an area on a map without any errors.
- Measurement of water surface roughness:
The determination of the roughness of any water surface is one of the most complex procedures. This was until the invention of the LiDAR technology. Right now, it is much easier to determine the roughness of the water surface using the laser pulses.
- Shoreline or coastal change:
LiDAR pulses are ideal for the penetration of the coastline data thus monitoring the change in the coastline structure and the shoreline. This data would otherwise be difficult to monitor and track with other methods of surveying. The change in the shoreline or coastline could be as a result of decreasing sea level or increasing sea level and this would help researchers identify the causes.
- Urban utility planning:
LiDAR technology has also been instrumental in the planning of the urban utility structure in such things as electric grid mapping and terrain surveillance. The LiDAR pulses help in positioning of the electric grids in the right order and also monitoring the sagging of the electric wires.
- Site mapping/site discovery:
LiDAR technology has the ability to penetrate deep into the soil to help in mapping of various sites underneath the earth’s surface. Sites such as archeological sites or mineral sites have been discovered thanks to the efficiency of the LiDAR pulses that are able to penetrate the earth’s surface.
- Vulnerability studies:
LiDAR is used to study the vulnerabilities of some of the risks that face human kind. It is now much easier to track some disasters such as tornados, landslides or even tsunamis that were previously unplanned for and therefore would come with a lot of damages to humankind including loss of life.
- Earthquake damage assessment:
The damages caused by earthquakes after they have happened may be difficult to measure and determine. Tanks to LiDAR technology, it is now easy to collect the data before the earthquake occurs and after the earthquake occurs to assess the damage caused and also to help in future prevention.
- Wireless signal mapping:
LiDAR technology is also useful in wireless signal mapping. Using the LiDAR pulses, it is easier to plan where each of the wireless transmitters will be positioned and also to determine the distance between each of the transmitters for efficiency. It can also be used to assess the strength of the wireless signal and the radius of the wireless signal.
- Laboratory testing:
LiDAR pulses are used in various laboratories testing of such things as the strength of signals being developed, the concentration of some fluids and also the power of some experimentation. LiDAR is used to give the exact test results of the test hence its efficiency.
- Virtual tour of attractions in tourism:
LiDAR pulses can be used to create virtual 3D and 2D representations of an area hence giving the exact model of the area. This can be used to create virtual tours of some tourist attractions for use to market the areas overseas. This is because they give the precise representation of the area unlike other methods of survey.
- Generation of virtual 3D designs for project development:
Architects and other designers in the civil engineering department use LiDAR pulses to create virtual 3D designs of the areas they intend to develop hence creating a representation of the project they want to create for showcasing to various stakeholders.
- Bridge inspection:
It is easier to inspect bridges under development using LiDAR technology because of their efficiency. The LiDAR pulses have the capability of penetrating the bridges to identify any potential faults before the construction and even after the construction. This helps in maintaining the highest level of professionalism by the contractors.
- Parking utilization and traffic congestion:
LiDAR technology is used in autonomous vehicles to effectively utilize the parking spaces in a parking lot. In circumstances where the parking spaces are limited and the vehicle needs to fit in a smaller parking space it is the LiDAR that will guide the vehicle into safe parking. It is also used to monitor the traffic situation and the traffic congestion on the roads and even offer advice on alternative routes to be used.
- Forensics and accident investigations:
LiDAR technology is used to carry out vehicle accidents investigations. This is because they can reproduce the exact 3D representation of the accident as it happened hence helping the investigators determine the cause of the accident and who was at fault during the accident.
- Structural deformations:
LiDAR technology is used in the collection of information about various structures and identifying the potential deformations in these structures. The LiDAR pulses can penetrate deep into the structures to identify faults that would otherwise not be seen by the naked eye and help in advising the contractors on where to make corrections.
- Measurement of wind speed:
LiDAR technology is used by meteorologists to measure various weather patterns and weather element such as the wind speed and wind direction. Other methods of measurements may not give accurate data regarding the exact wind speed and direction and that is why LiDAR technology is employed to do just that.
- Used for the production of global topography of mars:
The topography of Mars can now be precisely drawn thanks to LiDAR technology. The laser pulses can travel at a very high speed to Mars and create a 3D model of the planet and return the data to earth at extremely high speed. This has also helps astronomers determine the existence of life on Mars.
- Used in the measurement of molecular density:
LiDAR technology has also been used in the field of chemistry to measure the molecular density of some of the molecules found in matter. This is because the data collected by LiDAR is much more accurate and hence guarantees an exact estimation of the molecules in any form of matter.
- Used by the military to identify targets:
LiDAR technology is used by the military to map out an area and identify potential targets within a given area of operation. The 3D images of an area can be obtained quite easily hence giving the military an exact location of the target reducing the margin of error.
- Identification of main forest species:
Besides just mapping the forests, LiDAR technology can also pinpoint the exact species that exist within a given forest. Based on the structure and the quality of the trees and the fauna in the forest, experts are able to tell what species can thrive in that forest and what species may not be able to survive in the forest.
- Characterization of forest maturity:
Experts have been able to tell the maturity of the forest thanks to the data collected and relayed by LiDAR technology. This data has the potential of giving the exact ages and qualities of the trees and flowers in a forest hence helping experts tell the maturity of the forest.
LiDAR technology has also played an important role in deforestation by identifying the potential areas in the forest affected by human activities. This information can then be used by the forest experts to curb the effects of deforestation hence protecting the forests.
- Land monitoring for crop viability:
LiDAR data can be used to monitor land for potential crop farming and determination of the viability of a crop in a given farmland. LiDAR can collect information regarding the soil quality and the soil profile and using this data, experts can tell what crops may thrive in that farmland and what crops may not.
- Crop categorization:
Using LiDAR technology, it is now easier to categorize crops based on their characteristics and the places on the farm that they may be planted. A crop may do well under certain conditions available in a given area but may not do well under totally different conditions available in another area.
Check out our further reading section for some great book recommendationsFurther Reading