Demystifying LiDAR Technology: Components, Working & Applications

Engineering Geek
3 min readFeb 9, 2022

For any construction project, safety and efficiency are the most critical factors. Technology methodologies such as LiDAR are most impactful than ever in shaping the future of the construction industry. This advanced concept helps streamline projects by enhancing the productivity of teams and processes. Further, if you belong to architectural, engineering, & construction (AEC) industries and have never used LiDAR before then you’ve come to the right place.

Read on this article to know about the essentials of LiDAR from what it is to its applications.

What is LiDAR?

It is an acronym for Light Detection and Ranging that uses optical remote sensing to send out laser light pulses to calculate accurate measurements and distance of objects such as buildings & landscapes. It helps generate precise 3D data about the shape of surrounding components and their surface characteristics information.

Main Components of LiDAR

The four key components of Light Detection and Ranging systems include:

  • Lasers
  • Scanners & optics
  • Photodetector & receiver electronics
  • Navigation & Positioning Systems/GPS receiver

How does LiDAR Technology Works?

  • LiDAR sensor releases pulses of light waves into the surrounding environment by following the time-of-flight principle.
  • These pulses reflect or hit the surface of surrounding objects and come back to the sensor’s detector.
  • The time utilized for each pulse to return can be used to determine the distance it traveled.
  • This process is repeated millions of times per second to produce a precise, real-time high-definition 3D map of the environment.

Different Types of LiDAR

LiDAR systems can be divided into two types based on their functionality

Airborne: In this type of LiDAR, the laser scanning system is mounted on a drone or helicopter to capture data. It emits infrared light towards the earth’s surface to evaluate the exact dimensions and distances of the targeted object. The scan is of larger areas in a shorter period than the terrestrial LiDAR. This makes it ideal for those applications that require a bird’s eye view of a huge area spanning multiple acres.

Based on what kind of area the LiDAR unit scans, it is further classified into two types

  1. Topological: For monitoring and mapping topography of a region
  2. Bathymetric: For measuring the depth of water bodies

Terrestrial

It is installed on a stationary device, moving vehicle, or tripod on the earth’s surface to capture accurate data points. Terrestrial LiDAR systems often scan in various directions of the object using mirrors. It is commonly used for monitoring highways, examining infrastructure, or even gathering point clouds from all around the structures.

Terrestrial LiDAR systems again have two types:

  1. Static: For collecting point clouds from a static location.
  2. Mobile: For collecting quality data points for 3D mapping to create more detailed 3D images and maps.

Applications for Deploying LiDAR Technology:

  • Land surveying
  • Power line inspection for maintenance
  • Forestry and agriculture mapping
  • Mining
  • Transportation expansion
  • Structural analysis

Conclusion

From helping teams ensure construction projects are completed more effectively and efficiently, with reduced costs and making it easier for AEC companies to comply with standard regulations, the advantages of using LiDAR for construction projects are vast. You can consider outsourcing an experienced engineering company to convert the point cloud to a 3D model using modern-age software tools such as Autodesk AutoCAD, Autodesk Revit, Autodesk AutoCAD, Autodesk Revit, Dassault Systems’ SolidWorks, and more.

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