LiDAR is an acronym for Light Detection And Ranging. It can functionally be defined as the integration of three technologies into one system which is capable of acquiring data to generate digital elevation models. The three technologies that are combined to generate digital elevation models are lasers, inertial navigation systems and, the global positioning system.
LiDAR mapping, therefore, refers to the use of remote sensing technology to create high resolution maps. These digital elevation maps are made by LiDAR equipment usually stationed in aircrafts. This technology is applied in many fields such as geography, archaeology, and seismology.
This optical remote sensing technology measures the characteristics of scattered light and information of distant targets. The distance to a target or object is measured using time delay between pulses that are transmitted and the consequent signals which are reflected and detected.
LiDAR uses much shorter electromagnetic wavelengths which are visible and close in range to infrared. Therefore, it is possible to capture image of objects or features which are of the same size as the wavelength. LiDAR equipped gadgets such as robots have the ability to construct maps and by pass obstacles.
Currently, significant new studies of both the chemical and physical processes that form landscape have been made possible by the ability of LiDAR to detect topographic features. These features include river terraces and channel banks. This has led to advancement in the field of geomorphology. In addition, this technology can measure the elevation of land surface especially under vegetation canopy. It can also resolve the spatial derivatives of aspects such as elevation and changes in elevation between subsequent surveys.
In business, LiDAR mapping is applied in several ways. First, it can be used to carry out ground survey for real estate developers. Airborne LiDAR survey is a quick and effective way of obtaining accurate typographic data in urban and rural areas. This data is used by engineers and town planners to plan development projects and infrastructure.
LIDAR mapping also facilitates oil and gas surveys. The oil industry depends on time sensitive data relating to particular positions of terrain in order to undertake exploration programs.
Hydrologists also use this technology to predict the extent of floods and plan intervention strategies. Hydrologists can map high risk areas for the purpose of analyzing flood risks and formulation of protection strategies. This process is referred to as flood risk mapping.
LiDAR surveys are also suitable for generating accurate elevation data for construction of new infrastructure and engineering projects. This is very important during planning. In addition, it can be used by engineers to model scenarios in selecting the best location for construction.
LiDAR can even detect cloud particles and aerosols in the atmosphere. This makes it useful in conducting atmospheric research and studying weather.
There are private companies and academic institutions that support the work of collecting, processing and archiving LiDAR data sets. Such organizations collect and distribute the LiDAR data for the purpose of research and education. This data is very useful in the fields of geoscience and ecology.
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