During the past two decades, departments of transportation in most states have adopted lidar technology for transportation planning, design engineering and construction. Use cases for lidar have rapidly expanded with the development of new and advanced sensors, combined with better methods for calibrating and processing lidar point clouds and greater automation in extracting intelligence from the data. This article reports on tests comparing UAS lidar with the more expensive helicopter platform.
From an article in Roads and Bridges by Kyle King and Mark Meade.
In just the last few years, there have been significant improvements in lidar sensors and aerial platforms. Lidar manufacturers have moved from 1 to 2 MHz lasers and packed impressive performance into smaller and lighter packaging. These changes have opened up use on new acquisition platforms, such as helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) also known as drones. Secondly, key sensor components have also improved, as have the laser precision and detection optics, providing accuracy and detail never before possible.
While these technological changes could offer great potential for transportation uses, there were many unknowns about sensor performance and accuracy in real-world projects. The Oklahoma DOT (ODOT), working in conjunction with NV5 Geospatial (formerly Quantum Spatial,) set out to test various applications in a ground-breaking research project on lidar performance and accuracy over a 2-mile stretch of rural highway. And the results showed great promise and offered even more flexibility not only for transportation projects, but for broader use by utilities, airports, railways and general engineering design.
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To determine the right mix of cost, resolution, and accuracy for project requirements, transportation planners need detailed knowledge of sensor and platform performance. In 2019, the ODOT and NV5 Geospatial set out to evaluate a variety of new sensors, deployed both on helicopters and UAVs, with the goals of:
Understanding the horizontal and vertical accuracy of point clouds generated from three types of lidar sensors flown at different altitudes.
Developing statistics for lidar accuracy on hard surfaces, such as asphalt and concrete, as well as soft surfaces, including bare earth and varying ground cover.
Evaluating the qualitative aspects of the point clouds in terms of applicability for various project types, including fine feature determination of signs, rail, above ground utilities, lane markings and guardrails.
For the complete article comparing UAS lidar with helicopter platforms CLICK HERE.
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