Advantages and Disadvantages of LiDAR

LiDAR technology has penetrated most of the industries with the major ones being construction and automotive. Because of its precise data collection and accuracy, it is one of the most preferred remote sensing technologies in the world today. While LiDAR comes with a lot of advantages, there are some limitations of LiDAR that make it quite difficult to use. We highlight some of the advantages and disadvantages of using LiDAR.

Advantages of using LiDAR

Data can be collected quickly and with high accuracy: LiDAR is an airborne sensing technology that makes data collection fast and comes with extremely high accuracy as a result of the positional advantage.

Surface data has a higher sample density. LiDAR gives a much higher surface density as compared to other methods of data collection such as photogrammetry. This improves results for some kinds of applications such as flood plain delineation.

Capable of collecting elevation data in a dense forest: LiDAR technology is capable of collecting elevation data from a densely populated forest thanks to the high penetrative abilities. This means it can map even the densely forested areas.

Can be used day and night: LiDAR technology can be used day and night thanks to the active illumination sensor. It is not affected by light variations such as darkness and light. This improves its efficiency.

Does not have any geometry distortions: LiDAR sensors are not affected by any geometrical distortions such as angular landscapes unlike other forms of data collection.

It can be integrated with other data sources: LiDAR technology is a versatile technology that can be integrated with other data sources which makes it easier to analyze complex data automatically.

It has minimum human dependence: LiDAR technology, unlike photogrammetry and surveying has minimum human dependence since most of the processes are automated. This also ensures valuable time is saved especially during the data collection and data analysis phase.

It is not affected by extreme weather: LiDAR technology is independent of extreme weather conditions such as extreme sunlight and other weather scenarios. This means that data can still be collected under these conditions and sent for analysis.

Can be used to map inaccessible and featureless areas: LiDAR technology can be used to map inaccessible featureless areas such as high mountains and thick snow areas.

It is cheap: LiDAR technology is a cheaper method of remote sensing in several applications especially when dealing with vast areas of land considering the fact that it is fast and extremely accurate.

Disadvantages of LiDAR

High operating costs in some applications: Although LiDAR is cheap when used in huge applications, it can be expensive when applied in smaller areas when collecting data.

Ineffective during heavy rain or low hanging clouds: LiDAR pulses may be affected by heavy rains or low hanging clouds because of the effects of refraction. However, the data collected can still be used for analysis.

Degraded at high sun angles and reflections: LiDAR technology does not work well in areas or situations where there are high sun angles or huge reflections since the laser pulses depend on the principle of reflection.

Unreliable for water depth and turbulent breaking waves: When it is used on water surfaces or where the surface is not uniform, it may not return accurate data since high water depth will affect the reflection of the pulses.

Very large datasets that are difficult to interpret: LiDAR is a technology that collects very huge datasets that require a high level of analysis and interpretation. For this reason, it may take a lot of time to analyze the data.

No International protocols: There are no strict international protocols that guide the collection and analysis of the data when using LiDAR technology hence it is done haphazardly.

Elevation errors due to inability to penetrate very dense forests: In some instances where the canopies over the forests are dense, the LiDAR pulses may not be able to penetrate the canopies thus returning incomplete data.

The laser beams may affect the human eye in cases where the beam is powerful: The Laser beams used by LiDAR pulses are usually powerful in some instances and these may affect the human eye. Read our article on the differences between LiDAR and laser here

Inability to penetrate thick vegetation: LiDAR pulses may not penetrate thick vegetation when collecting data and this may return inaccurate data.

Requires skilled data analysis techniques: Because of the huge data sets and the complexity of the data being collected, it may require skilled techniques to analyze the data which adds to the overall cost.

Low operating altitude of between 500-2000m: LiDAR technology cannot work on altitudes higher than 2000 meters because the pulses will not be effective at these heights.

Looking to dive into the fascinating history and future of LiDAR? Check out this great book on Amazon:

The Laser That’s Changing the World: The Amazing Stories behind Lidar, from 3D Mapping to Self-Driving Cars

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