3D Modeling Digital Twins Laser Scanning Lidar Surveying Technology

Understanding Lidar

point cloud for understanding lidar

LiDAR, which stands for light detection and ranging, is a technology that allows intelligent machines to sense and assess their surroundings using laser pulses. LiDAR sensors can calculate everything from an object’s position to its shape, size, direction, speed of travel and material makeup. This technology often goes hand in hand with autonomous robots and self-driving cars. This article is an introduction to understanding lidar the technology and its many applications.

From an article in Built In by Brooke Becher.

What Is LiDAR ?

LiDAR is a remote sensing technology that uses a pulsed, modulating laser to measure distances. In the time it takes for these pulses to reflect off of targeted surface areas, these systems can track changes in and create high-resolution digital 3D models and maps of their environment from collected data points.

“LiDAR sensors give intelligent systems 3D vision of the world around them,” Mark Frichtl, co-founder and chief technology officer at global LiDAR tech company Ouster, told Built In.

There are three categories of LiDAR systems: ground, airborne and mobile. Each generally features the following essential components: a laser source, scanner, detector and processor as well as an inertial measurement unit and GPS unit.

Compared to other sensing technologies — like radar, photogrammetry or sonar — LiDAR uses narrow beams of light at shorter wavelengths to collect spatial data “within millimeters of accuracy” and “up to 200 hundred meters away,” Frichtl said.

This results in highly accurate, detail-rich data sets that, in addition to generating digital maps and models, can track, count and classify objects over time and gather insight of activity in its immediate surroundings, such as traffic patterns and human behavior.

How Does LiDAR Work?

LiDAR works by emitting laser pulses from a sensor toward a target area, with each pulse hitting objects or surfaces that reflect back to the sensor. The time it takes for the pulses to return is measured, allowing the system to precisely calculate the distance to each object.

“Since the speed of light is constant, this time can be directly converted into distance,” Rugved Hattekar, a LiDAR software developer of machine vision systems at Luminar Technologies, told Built In.

By emitting millions of these pulses per second across multiple streams — measuring both the distance and angle of each laser — LiDAR collects a high volume of data points that accumulate into dense ‘point clouds.’ Each of these data sets contain the coordinates of surrounding objects, including a target’s exact position, shape, size and even its texture.

These calculations are then analyzed in real time or processed across various software applications to generate detail-rich 3D maps or models of a dynamic environment.

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