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LiDAR Drone Surveying & Mapping – All You Need To Know

LiDAR Drone Surveying & Mapping – All You Need To Know

LiDAR drone surveys are quickly becoming the go-to method for surveying & mapping operations in many industries. From architecture and agriculture to construction and utilities, all are taking advantage of the tremendous cost, efficiency and analysis benefits they provide.

But what exactly is a LiDAR drone survey? Simply put, a LiDAR drone survey involves attaching a LiDAR sensor to a drone to map an area and collect point cloud data. 

This provides the user with valuable terrain information and has applications across a wide range of sectors.

So, what is LiDAR? And how does it allow you to use lasers to make accurate measurements?

LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging. 

LiDAR works by emitting hundreds of thousands of lasers a second towards the earth’s surface.

Once emitted, these lasers travel towards the earth, where they bounce off an object and are reflected back to the LiDAR sensor.

The time taken for the light to return indicates the exact distance of the object.

This is known as the Time of Flight (ToF) principle. 

The lasers scatter and penetrate far and wide to ensure they hit each bit of terrain being mapped. The data collected is then turned into a precise, 3D point cloud representation.

Topographical Surveys a topographical survey involves gathering data about man-made features and natural terrain of an area of land.

As a laser scanning technique, LiDAR is inherently non-invasive. That makes it especially suited for topographic surveys of vegetation, rugged, or hard-to-access zones. As a result, the LiDAR surveying method has helped surveyors shift from the laborious practice of mapping with heavy Differential GPS tools & ETS (Electronic Total Stations) to the time-saving way of utilising UAVs/drones with high-powered technology.

Infrastructure and mining  as highlighted by our partners YellowScan in this article, LiDAR drone surveys also benefit the mining sector. Mining is a traditionally hazardous and expensive venture due to the remote and hard-to-access nature of mines & quarries. However, drone LiDAR surveys can help reduce costs and increase safety. 

Mining companies are using LiDARs to capture geospatial information on the natural surface, the infrastructure of a mine, and calculate the production volumes.

UAV LiDARs ensure proper planning and decision-making by providing precise inventory information, accurate pit models and contour maps. They also minimise human intervention, keeping miners and workers safe.

In comparison to using photogrammetry, LiDAR data is processed significantly quicker. You eliminate the problem of insufficient information being captured (due to bad luminosity because of cloudy weather or dense vegetation). A LiDAR scan accurately reveals the diverse variations in elevation. And, a LiDAR survey is significantly faster than photogrammetry, as it requires less flight planning.

Accuracy a UAV with a LiDAR camera flying in Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) systems allows the point clouds to have a great accuracy of less than 1cm RMSE (Root Mean Square Error). Making it significantly more accurate and precise than traditional surveying methods.

Safety LiDAR scans are inherently safer than traditional surveys, as they’re aerial and don’t require staff to risk their health by accessing dangerous sites.

Progress Monitoring – LiDAR scans allow you to compare and analyse changes to an area over a period of time.

When it comes to LiDAR payloads, YellowScan is the golden standard.

YellowScan Mapper+ – The YellowScan Mapper+ is a Livox AVIA-based laser scanner. It features a high-performance GNSS-aided inertial navigation system. It’s incredibly versatile as it can be used with any UAV, and is also compatible with DJI Skyport & Gremsy Port.

All of this is integrated into a lightweight, standalone and easy-to-use lidar system. The Mapper+ LiDAR payload has proven capabilities and delivers stable results across various applications.

YellowScan Explorer – The YellowScan Explorer is a long-range and multi-platform LiDAR solution. One of the unique features of this payload is that it can be mounted onto light manned aircraft as well as traditional UAVs such as the DJI M300. Making it highly versatile and suitable for a wide range of projects.

YellowScan Qube 240 – The Qube 240 payload is a geomatics grade LiDAR scanner built specifically for the Trinity F90+ UAV.

Typically, LiDAR payloads were unaffordable for SMEs due to their high costs. However, the Qube 240, Quantum Systems and YellowScan have made LiDAR more accessible at a lower price. The Qube 240 LiDAR scanner integrates into the payload compartment of the Trinity F90+ drone.

It provides essential information for surveying and mapping by generating an accurate 3D image of the process environment through 240.000 distance measurements per second. Its absolute accuracy is achieved thanks to the integrated Applanix APX15 INS.

The fundamental difference between LiDAR and Photogrammetry is how they capture data. LiDAR uses lasers & photogrammetry uses photos. 

Photogrammetry results in a full-colour orthomosaic being generated. LiDAR, on the other hand, produces a colourised point cloud when combined with a camera.

If you’d like to know about the differences between LiDAR & Photogrammetry (and the pros and cons of each), we’ve covered it in depth for you here.

LiDAR drone surveys combine the incredible technological power of LiDAR scanning with the aerial prowess of drones. As a result, the combination has led to LiDAR drone surveys becoming the go-to surveying and mapping option in many industries.

Would you like to learn more about how LiDAR surveys can benefit your operations?

Book a time to chat with our LiDAR specialist, Jon White, to discuss LiDAR equipment, drone purchase and implementation.



aetha.ai is the publishing assistant for aetha


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