What is LIDAR? (And how does LETELmetrics use it to improve your engineering project?)

You’ve seen us talking a lot about LIDAR lately, as LETELmetrics uses this technology to provide the most accurate and…

You’ve seen us talking a lot about LIDAR lately, as LETELmetrics uses this technology to provide the most accurate and advanced data for mapping your projects. But….what exactly is LIDAR?

LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a 3D-mapping technology that basically works like radar or sonar and is used for everything from self-driving cars to robots to construction and deforestation.

LIDAR takes millions of measurements in all directions simultaneously and then creates a map from that data. It often looks like a whirling helmet on top of a robot or car. LIDAR spins around, shooting invisible lasers in all directions. The LIDAR catches the reflections and measures how long the laser beams take to return so it can figure out what obstacles are nearby. These lasers can penetrate dense canopies and brush, making super-accurate Point Clouds (millions of elevation data points) that represent all the characteristics of a surface terrain. 

Geographers and scientists use LIDAR to draw detailed, aerial maps. That’s also how LETELmetrics uses LIDAR technology. We can use LIDAR data to create a Point Cloud, which is, again, just a term for the 3D array of LIDAR measurements related to specific GPS coordinates. LETEL gathers tons of data points stretching as far as 200 feet away in all directions, and with accuracy down to the centimeter. 

For engineers like LETELmetrics, the collection of precise aerial photographs that match the scale of a map (orthophotos) and 3D elevation data via drones means surveying projects can be done in hours instead of the weeks it used to take human surveyors to collect data points! This means better efficiency and accuracy for your projects, and LETELmetrics is uniquely equipped to be the place you go to make this happen for YOUR engineering project.  

Additional sourcing: CivilGEO.com 

Did you know: most police officers no longer use a “radar gun” to catch speeders? Newer handheld speeding guns likely use LIDAR lasers. 

A brief history of LIDAR: (reposted from Explain That Stuff’s page on LIDAR)

1930s: Three decades before the invention of lasers, scientists experiment with measuring the composition of the atmosphere using sweeping searchlight beams.

1958: Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow invent the maser (the original, microwave laser); their student Gordon Gould also makes important contributions.

1960: Theodore Maiman builds and demonstrates the first practical laser.

1962: MIT scientists measure the distance between Earth and the Moon using a reflected laser beam.

1965: Stanford Research Institute’s Ronald Collins files a patent for a laser-radar LIDAR system that can be used to study Earth’s atmosphere and weather.

1969: Daniel Hickman and John Hogg publish an influential scientific paper describing how airborne lasers can be used for making measurements of ocean depth.

1971: Apollo 15 astronauts use LIDAR to map the surface of the Moon.

1974: Alan Carswell of York University, Toronto invents a laser range-finder and founds a company called Optech to sell it. Over the next few years, Optech perfects the idea of scanning a laser remotely to make maps.

1976: The first textbook about LIDAR is published.

1985: Optech begins selling a product called the Larsen-500, one of the first commercial LIDAR systems.

1990s: LIDAR is widely used for geographical mapping.

1994: NASA takes LIDAR into space on the Space Shuttle Discovery. LITE (Lidar In-Space Technology Experiment) is the first time LIDAR had been used to study the atmosphere from space.

2005: LIDAR systems make the headlines as the eyes behind self-driving cars in the US military’s DARPA Grand Challenge.

2008: NASA’s Phoenix Lander takes an Optech LIDAR scanner to Mars to study the planet’s atmosphere.

2015: DARPA announces that it has created Sweeper, a miniature LIDAR system on a single chip (“Sweeper” stands for Short-range Wide-field-of-view Extremely agile Electronically steered Photonic EmitteR).

2017: The Environment Agency of England and Wales announces it will LIDAR scan the whole of England and make the data publicly available.

2018: LETELmetrics begins using LIDAR technology to provide top-quality mapping services and professional solutions to businesses.

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