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What is LiDAR?


Studio Victoria

2 minutes

LiDAR — Light Detection and Ranging — is also known as Laser Scanning and it is a crucial technology for the Construction, Property, Insurance, and Farming sectors. In today’s article we are going to answer the following questions: what is LiDAR?, how does LiDAR work?, and what do we use LiDAR for?. Laser Scanning is one of the main technologies that we use to help you to #ONEUPYOURBUSINESS.


LiDAR technology was invented in the 1960s and was mostly used mounted to airplanes to conduct atmospheric research and meteorology studies. It became more popular in the 1980s when LiDAR was starting to be used in conjunction with GPS to conduct aerial topographic surveys.

LiDAR units can be mounted to aircrafts like airplanes or super heavy lift drones or could be attached to tripods and used from the ground.

The lasers used could vary in intensity. Since we do not conduct atmospheric research, we only use “eye-safe” lasers, which are less powerful but can be used in a much safer way and with less


Similar to SONAR — Sound Detection and Ranging , which uses sounds to measure distances— and RADAR — Radio Detection and Ranging, which uses radio waves for the measurements — LiDAR works in a very similar emitting light pulses, usually hundreds of thousands per second, to measure distances. The distance formula multiplies the speed of light by the time that the light pulse takes to come back to the LiDAR unit once it hit the surface being measured — what it is known as Time of Flight — and then divides that by 2.

Distance = (Speed of Light x Time of Flight) / 2

Depending on the application and the LiDAR unit that we use, these distance measurements could be enriched by accurate positioning data provided by a GPS module and what we call Inertial Measurement Unit — a module that contains gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetometers, and calculates angles and orientation.

The final output of the LiDAR is a highly detailed and precise 3D Point Cloud, which has a wide variety of uses.


We use laser scanning technology to produce highly accurate 3D Points of the following:

  • Buildings
  • Pipes, tanks and other elements
  • Interior spaces
  • Terrains

These 3D Point Clouds have multiple applications:

  • Digital Twins for BIM
  • Topographic surveys
  • Accident reconstruction
  • Building preservation and restoration
  • Videogame development


By using LiDAR units we have some key advantages:

  • Highly accurate and detailed 3D Point Clouds, since the LiDAR units emit hundreds of thousands of light pulses per second
  • Being to scan objects that could be partially obstructed by trees and being able to scan objects that are in unusual locations or angles


However, as with any other technology, there are always some downsides. In the case of the terrestrial LiDAR units the main disadvantages are:

  • They need constant repositioning by the operator to complete the scan, requiring considerably more time that when we use drones to do the job
  • They are heavy units, which also include a sturdy tripod

These disadvantages could end up in operator fatigue. It is one of the reasons why we always use LiDAR units in combination with drones, to have the best of both technologies and to overcome their disadvantages.

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