Pros and cons of LIDAR

LIDAR is an abbreviation for light detection and ranging. It is basically a system of data collection that uses laser pulses and the time of flight calculation in order to capture large quantities of data. One notable thing about this method is the fact that it’s incredibly accurate. Over time, there have been various advancements in the LIDAR technology making it more powerful. It is mainly used in the construction and automotive industries but has many other applications. Check out our article 100 applications and uses of Lidar Technology for more. While it’s a preferred technology in the world today, it has its advantages and disadvantages.


1. Data is collected quickly and high accuracy is maintained. Since LIDAR is an airborne sensing technology, data collection is a much faster process and tends to be extremely accurate. This is due to the positional advantage.

2. The surface data has a high sample density. When compared to some other methods used in data collection, LIDAR has the upper hand when it comes to a higher sample density. This can work to enhance the results of certain applications.

3. Has the ability to collect elevation data even in dense forests. LIDAR technology has high penetrative abilities. Therefore, it can easily map densely forested regions and collect the required elevation data.

4. Works both day and night. LIDAR technology consists of an active illumination sensor. For this reason, it can’t be affected by the light variation of day and night. This makes it efficient.

5. There are no geometry distortions. Unlike other methods of data collection, LIDAR sensors are not subject to any of the geometrical distortions.

6. Requires minimal human supervision. LIDAR technology has little human dependence unlike other forms such as surveying. A good number of the processes are already automated and hence eliminates the need for human dependence. This saves on time.

7. Not affected by extreme weather conditions. Extreme weather conditions do not interfere with the working of LIDAR technology. Data can still be collected under the scorching sunlight and sent back for the analysis.

8. It is cheap. This is one of the main advantages of using LIDAR technology. It is the cheaper option most especially when vast areas of land are concerned. This is because it’s fast and provides accurate data.

9. It’s safe. LIDAR is the safest method of data collection. You get to collect the data from a safe and distant location away from busy highways.

10. It provides additional data that may be useful. LIDAR can actually observe the amplitude of the back scatter energy. In this case, it gets to record the reflectance value of a data point. This data can be used for some classifications.



1. It’s expensive. LIDAR is required when you need to collect data over vast areas of land. If it’s only a small project, then I don’t see why you should break the bank in order to purchase the LIDAR technology. On the other hand, it may be worth it to use thousands of dollars when you know it’s something that will get the job perfectly done.

2. Ineffective in the heavy rains and low hanging clouds. The LIDAR pulses may not be efficient in weather conditions such as heavy rains or low clouds. This is because there is refraction which affects the whole process.

3. Affected by high sun angles and reflections. The technology does not work perfectly in areas with high sun angles and reflections. Keep in mind, the laser pulses rely on reflections.

4. Inaccurate in water depth and turbulent waves. When used on water surfaces that are not uniform, the data collected is not usually reliable. The water depth may negatively impact on the reflection of the pulses.

5. Too much data. LIDAR technology tends to collect too many datasets that require competitive analysis and interpretation. Therefore, it could take quite a long time before all the data is analyzed. Check out our List of 9 LiDAR processing Tools & Tutorials article for help.

6. There are no international protocols. I am surprised that the LIDAR technology has no regulatory international protocols. This encourages haphazard data collection and analysis.

7. May not really penetrate thick vegetation. The pulses may be unable to effectively penetrate the very thick vegetation. This results in inaccurate data. Read our article on How does Lidar see through trees for more

8. Powerful laser beams can potentially affect the human eye. There are some instances where the laser beams of the LIDAR technology are too strong. This might greatly affect the human eye.

9. Requires skilled data analysts. Typically, LIDAR collects huge and complex data sets. For this reason, skilled techniques are required in analyzing the data and this may make the costs even more expensive.

10. Low operating altitudes. This technology only works at altitudes of less than 2000m and not higher than that. The pulses are not effective at higher altitudes.