LiDAR technology is changing the way we do everything – from driving cars to excavating ancient civilizations. But what is this new form of modern technology? And what opportunities is it truly presenting to the industry titans who seek to create a better tomorrow?
LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging is a way to use laser sensors to map their surrounding environment. The laser sensors use light waves to effectively measure the distance between surrounding objects.Of course, LiDAR 3D laser mapping is no new concept. The technology has been around since the 1960’s, and people have been using the technology to map geophysical distances since the 1980’s.
Essentially, LiDAR technology sends lasers out into the space surrounding you – either above or below ground – and measures how long it takes for the laser to hit a nearby object in light speed. This information is used to build a 3D special model to gain a better understanding of a surrounding area.
What is LiDAR used for today?
Today, leaders across industries are using LiDAR technology for a variety of purposes. The technology is most commonly used in construction and surveying – to determine the mapping of built objects. The technology can sense everything from buildings to railways, and can help to create an accurate depiction of a specific landscape for reference.
However, as the technology has become more advanced in recent years, it’s proven to have other important uses. The auto industry, for example, has started to use LiDAR technology in combination with several other systems in the building of self-driving vehicles. These vehicles use LiDAR technology to map surrounding areas and drive safely, while saving the information for later reference. Because the technology takes measurements of the surrounding area at light-speed, it allows self-driving vehicles to respond quickly and accurately to changes in the driving landscape.
LiDAR technology is also used to map the earth’s surface – both above and below sea level. The updated version of this technology has allowed geoscientists to study previously unmapped (or inaccurately mapped) areas. This allows emergency responders to get a better idea of a shoreline, air pilots and military personnel to better see the geography of the land they fly over, and more.
Most recently, LiDAR technology has been used by archaeologists to uncover previously unknown Mayan civilizations under a thick cover of jungle foliage. A team of pilots flew over the area and, using LiDAR technology, uncovered an undocumented Mayan settlement.
As they continued to investigate, it became clear that the civilization was even more settled than they could have imagined. Although it seems outlandish to claim that any inch of the earth’s surface remains unexplored by archaeologists – this is a perfect example of a time where we, as a human race, have been unable to explore our history. Without knowing where to look, we could be missing several more ancient civilizations that could provide fascinating historical insight that we would have previously missed.
Through the use of LiDAR technology, archaeologists are able to create an accurate depiction of entire civilizations before performing on-the-ground excavation. This allows them the safety and certainty of exploring the right areas in the jungle, and allows them to use less man power – helping to keep more people safe, and reduce project expenses.
What companies and organizations use LiDAR?
There are several companies creating LiDAR technology solutions for use across industries. Some are startups like Ouseter, who is developing LiDAR-based tools specifically for the international auto industry.
However, many preestablished organizations are also using the new and improved LiDAR technology in their products. For example, Toyota recently started using LiDAR technology in their vehicles to sense surrounding physical objects and create a safer driving experience. Other organizations, like the National Ocean Service, promote the use of LiDAR technology to create a safer, more informed future. However, as time goes on, it’s expected that many more industries and organizations will make use of this incredible technology.
LiDAR Offers Future Opportunities
Despite all of the amazing opportunities that LiDAR technology has created for us, we have still only scratched the surface of possibility. Archaeology and construction could be made infinitely more accurate and easier, while using less funds and man power to complete projects. Emergency rescue missions could have the opportunity to better understand the landscape of a dense forest when searching for lost hikers. We could potentially use the technology, at some point in the future, to remove the need for human-operated vehicles of all kinds.
The opportunities that LiDAR currently offers are truly incredible. However, the unharnessed potential that this technology has is what’s truly awe-inspiring. Scientists and technology specialists around the world are already working with LiDAR tech to create new tools and solutions across multiple industries, and it’s exciting to think of what other possibilities will be made available to us as time goes on.