Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and LiDAR: Exploring the Benefits of UAV LiDAR Technology

LiDAR is a powerful remote sensing technology that is used for a variety of applications. When a UAV carries a LiDAR system payload, the term UAV LiDAR is used. This technology is suitable for mounting on a variety of mobile mapping platforms and unmanned aerial vehicles, allowing users to capture topographically quality 360-degree point cloud data and safely scan distances in hazardous terrain. A complete LiDAR solution typically consists of the drone itself, equipped with a LiDAR scanner, an on-board computer, an IMU and a GPS receiver.

The AlphaUni 900 and 1300 mapping solutions are designed to be easily installed on both unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). This allows for the acquisition of LiDAR data from UAVs in a timely, accurate and safe manner, at a much lower cost than manned aircraft surveys. The laser pulses emitted by a LiDAR system are reflected in objects found on and above the ground surface, making it an ideal technology for penetrating vegetation from the air and seeing the ground below. Digital Terrain Models (DTMs) are particularly useful for a wide variety of forest management applications, since the LiDAR UAV visualizes both the forest and the ground.

Fixed-wing drones carrying a LIDAR payload can cover up to 10 km2 (4 miles) in flight, with absolute accuracy limits of about 10 cm (4 inches) horizontally and 5 cm (2 inches) vertically. Our systems can be equipped with quick-release systems and connections that allow for a rapid exchange of fields between several different types of sensory loads. We can also integrate several sensors at once, reducing the number of flights needed to complete a single job. The number of points per square meter is high when using LiDAR UAVs since they fly lower and slower compared to other aerial options such as helicopters or airplanes.

The Phoenix LiDAR Systems HydroRanger is an airborne topobathymetric LiDAR (ATB) system for use in unmanned helicopters. UAV LiDAR is ideal when you need to penetrate through vegetation to achieve a DTM rather than a DSM, or to overcome difficult terrain or dangerous places such as landslides. In addition, higher-strength drones are now available which will expand the type of applications for which the LiDAR UAV can be used. LiDAR UAVs offer great advantages in hazardous environments where you don't want to send people and for inspecting areas that are difficult or impossible to travel by other means such as open pit mines, landslides or areas containing landmines.

Fast response times for capturing data and providing high-resolution outputs mean that the LiDAR UAV now offers a cost-effective and viable alternative for terrestrial mapping and topography projects. Topographic LiDAR is widely used in land surface measurement and can be installed on multi-rotor drones and fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles. UAV LiDAR has multiple advantages compared to aerial and ground LiDAR including greater safety, cost-effectiveness, speed of data collection and higher data quality. Applications such as transport of dams and water, topography of infrastructure, mapping of landslides, inspection of pipes and topography of archaeological sites have all benefited from LiDAR for aerial vehicles which has proven to be a better alternative to hazardous terrestrial topography or aerial LiDAR cartography.

As stated above, aerial LiDAR and UAVs are used to create accurate 3D models in the form of DTMs and DSMs.

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