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Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Choosing the proper sensors to your job

In drone survey missions, the selection between photogrammetry and LIDAR relies upon closely on the precise utility. You additionally want to think about operational components, reminiscent of value and complexity. Realizing what outputs you really want will enable you to make the proper resolution.
What’s LIDAR and the way does its output evaluate with outcomes obtained with high-resolution RGB cameras and photogrammetry? On this article, we’ll discover the methods photogrammetry and LIDAR are literally fairly totally different from one another, even when their three-dimensional (3D) outputs look comparable. We’ll then dig deeper into particular functions and the way photogrammetry can present distinctive outcomes for many missions at a fraction of the price and complexity of LIDAR.
Photogrammetry {and professional}, high-resolution cameras can cost-effectively generate 2D and 3D surveys, with absolute accuracies right down to 1 cm (0.4 in) root imply sq. (RMS) horizontal and three cm (1.6 in) RMS vertical.

How Photogrammetry Works

In photogrammetry, a drone captures numerous high-resolution images over an space. These photographs overlap such that the identical level on the bottom is seen in a number of images and from totally different vantage factors. In the same approach that the human mind makes use of data from each eyes to offer depth notion, photogrammetry makes use of these a number of vantage factors in photographs to generate a 3D map.
The consequence: a high-resolution 3D reconstruction that comprises not solely elevation/peak data, but in addition texture, form, and colour for each level on the map, enabling simpler interpretation of the ensuing 3D level cloud.
Drone methods that use photogrammetry are value efficient and supply excellent flexibility by way of the place, when, and the way you seize 2D and 3D information.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Choosing the right sensors for your job

The WingtraOne vertical take-off and touchdown (VTOL) drone permits customers to conduct small- and large-scale drone surveys with unmatched information high quality at a fraction of the time and value of a crewed plane.


LIDAR, which stands for “gentle detection and ranging,” is a expertise that has been round for a lot of many years however has solely lately been obtainable in a dimension and energy possible for carrying on massive drones. A LIDAR sensor sends out pulses of laser gentle and measures the precise time it takes for these pulses to return as they bounce from the bottom. It additionally measures the depth of that reflection.
LIDAR makes use of oscillating mirrors to ship out laser pulses in lots of instructions in order to generate a “sheet” of sunshine because the drone strikes ahead. Via measuring the timing and depth of the returning pulses, it could present readings of the terrain and of factors on the bottom.
The sensor itself is just one a part of a LIDAR system. Critically essential for capturing usable information, you’ll additionally want a high-precision satellite tv for pc positioning system (GNSS) in addition to high-accuracy sensors to find out the orientation of the LIDAR sensor in house—an inertial measurement unit (IMU). All of those high-end subsystems should work in excellent orchestration to allow processing of the uncooked information into usable data, a course of referred to as direct geo-referencing.
Because the sensors have advanced, there’s now the choice to seize aerial LIDAR information from one among two varieties of methods: classical manned airborne and light-weight UAV.
Classical airborne LIDAR surveys are performed from a crewed airplane and are much less correct however able to overlaying extra floor than light-weight UAV LIDAR operations. Particularly, you possibly can cowl between 10 and 1,000 sq. kilometers (4 and 400 sq. miles) in a single flight. Absolutely the accuracy relies on the flight peak and sensor alternative. At a typical flight peak of two,000 meters (6,600 ft) above floor degree (AGL), you possibly can count on an absolute accuracy restrict of about 20 cm (8 inches) horizontal and 10 cm (4 inches) vertical.
Light-weight drone LIDAR methods cowl as a lot because the drone permits per flight. As we’ll focus on intimately in beneath sections, these methods will be extra correct than these carried by manned plane. Particularly, fixed-wing drones carrying a LIDAR payload can cowl as much as 10 sq. km (4 sq. miles) in a flight, with absolute accuracy limits proper round 10 cm (4 inches) horizontal and 5 cm (2 inches) vertical.
In each circumstances of crewed plane and light-weight drone LIDAR, the accuracy is considerably lower than photogrammetry avails. Plus the post-processing for LIDAR completely requires experience past a fast coaching or studying of a handbook, as we’ll focus on beneath.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Choosing the right sensors for your job

A WingtraOne UAV geared up with a LIDAR sensor can create correct 3D fashions with 2 to three cm (0.8 to 1.2 in) of vertical accuracy. These fashions can be utilized for exact volumetric calculations throughout a variety of industries.


As we have now seen, photogrammetry and aerial LIDAR differ in the way in which factors on the bottom are registered. This instantly impacts the ultimate level cloud accuracy and we’ll see that, particularly for horizontal accuracy of areas free from dense forest cover, photogrammetry clearly outperforms aerial LIDAR.

Photogrammetry. Within the case of photogrammetry, a top quality, high-resolution, full-frame sensor digital camera like WingtraOne’s Sony RX1R II can yield outputs with horizontal (x-y) accuracies within the vary of 1 cm (0.4 in) and elevation (z) accuracies within the vary of two to three cm (0.8 to 1.2 inches) over arduous surfaces, enabling exact volumetric evaluation.
Word, nevertheless, that as a way to obtain such efficiency the payload used for photogrammetry should be knowledgeable one, with the proper picture sensor and lens to seize extra element. It’s not simply in regards to the variety of pixels. The truth is, two cameras with the identical variety of megapixels and totally different dimension sensors present totally different picture high quality and accuracy.
Correct mission planning and post-processing are additionally essential for attaining optimum accuracy: good overlap amongst photographs will increase accuracy and gives higher error correction in comparison with full reliance on the direct geo-referencing methodology utilized in LIDAR. A high-end drone system with skilled mission planning and post-processing workflow helps make sure that you seize high quality information that generates correct outcomes.

LIDAR. As for aerial LIDAR strategies, the sensor doesn’t goal particular options on floor however as a substitute shoots the beams at a set frequency in an outlined sample. Even when the horizontal accuracy of the only level is likely to be greater, the very best horizontal accuracy of a focal point on the bottom is restricted by the purpose density.
Crewed aerial LIDAR can present a degree density of as much as 50 factors per sq. meter and provides a typical absolute accuracy of 20 cm horizontal and 10 cm vertical if flown at a typical peak of two,000 meters (6,600 ft) AGL.
By flying decrease, light-weight UAV LIDAR gives the next level density than crewed aerial LIDAR and may obtain higher accuracy although the laser is much less highly effective. Mounted on a multicopter, level density and the ensuing level cloud accuracy will be improved by flying low and gradual on the expense of diminished effectivity.
Within the case of LIDAR on fixed-wing drones, a degree density between 50 and 200 factors per sq. meter is feasible. This implies a measurement each ~ 10 cm, so an absolute horizontal accuracy of about 10 cm will be achieved.
On high of restricted horizontal accuracy, LIDAR-derived level cloud accuracy relies on the precision of the LIDAR itself and the standard of the INS (IMU and GNSS) system. Contemplating all technological developments and system variables right now, the standard absolute accuracy that you could count on from a light-weight LIDAR system on a fixed-wing drone is roughly 10 cm (4 inches) horizontal and 5 cm (2 inches) vertical.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Choosing the right sensors for your job

Whereas LIDAR can present extra element beneath denser vegetation, each photogrammetry (decrease graph) and LIDAR (high graph) can generate terrain fashions beneath sparse vegetation the place the bottom is partially seen from the air. (The info proven on this graphic was captured at 30 meters above the bottom.)

Photogrammetry and LIDAR Purposes

For many missions, 3D outcomes achievable with photogrammetry are much like these obtained with LIDAR, however with higher accuracy and higher versatility, e.g., photorealistic outputs, because of the high-resolution visible information. There are some functions—particularly that includes energy strains or massive areas of dense forest cover—the place the upper expense of LIDAR for airborne missions is justified. Let’s take a look at the proof for this throughout a variety of precise functions.

Topographical maps that includes gentle vegetation (sparse tree stands or open cover) are greatest surveyed with high-resolution RGB information seize. The decision and photorealistic outcomes are helpful in circumstances like wildfire administration in residential areas and have been utilized by a few of the world’s largest city fireplace and rescue providers because the data serves many stakeholders who want an actual view of what’s occurred.

Topographical maps with medium vegetation will be obtained by way of a mix of photogrammetry and a technique to seize the bottom beneath the vegetation. To seize the extra data beneath the vegetation, floor survey strategies or aerial LIDAR can be utilized. The mixture with floor survey strategies retains the worth down whereas guaranteeing excessive accuracy plus the decision and photorealistic outcomes obtainable via photogrammetry.
Whereas LIDAR can present extra element beneath denser vegetation, each photogrammetry and LIDAR can generate terrain fashions beneath sparse vegetation the place the bottom is partially seen from the air.

Massive-scale topographical maps that includes heavy vegetation are greatest acquired by way of manned airborne LIDAR. A digital terrain mannequin (DTM) of the forest floor gives helpful data for undertaking planning in building (e.g., the planning of recent roads), forest biomass or detailed data on vegetation and habitats by way of topography and underlying terrain, functions falling beneath these circumstances will at all times require LIDAR at the least partially to normalize topographical information.
Sometimes, state companies attempt to keep moderately correct digital terrain fashions (DTMs) of the forest grounds. For these sorts of large-scale initiatives with low decision necessities, manned airborne LIDAR is probably the most cost-effective choice obtainable. If a extra correct or up-to-date DTM of a small forest is required, a standard floor survey would be the most cost-effective choice obtainable, but light-weight drone LIDAR would possibly fill a distinct segment in-between.

Naked-earth mining, volumetric and pure useful resource surveys are greatest dealt with by high-end RGB payloads. Even huge surveys are supreme with the proper drone and RGB digital camera. On high of this, photogrammetry is value efficient and saves time not solely to seize and course of information associated to chop and fill volumes, stockpile assessments and standing stories, but in addition to share this data and reconcile with contractors and stakeholders.

Energy line surveys for vegetation management will be completed with LIDAR or high-resolution photogrammetry and powerline extraction options on software program like Pix4Dsurvey. For the sake of photorealism, value, and workflow, I like to recommend the latter choice. Analysis is ongoing round photogrammetry as a go-to, cost-effective resolution.

Powerline pole tower inspection advantages from reside video inspection with a multicopter carrying an RGB or thermal payload. These are often comparatively small areas that multicopters can maneuver round and take indirect photographs of simply and safely. With this methodology, you get all data inside a really quick period of time. Zoom cameras enable detailed inspection that can not be supplied by photogrammetry or LIDAR..

Rail monitor inspection continues to be most frequently carried out from the bottom—by a prepare geared up with ultrasonic, LIDAR, and visible sensors. Inspection from the air with both photogrammetry or aerial LIDAR is gaining increasingly more curiosity however each strategies are in early phases. Excessive-resolution photogrammetry provides information that avails outputs with all the important particulars precisely and autonomously whereas saving time. Plus the photorealism provides a component of straightforward identification and flexibility that may reply to a variety of questions.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Choosing the right sensors for your job

Metropolis mapping with vertical buildings requiring 3D vantage factors has been extensively demonstrated with photogrammetry based mostly on imagery captured with a payload that includes indirect capabilities. For cityscapes with many high-rises and intense ranges of vertical element, multicopters work nicely, though their capability to cowl wide-spread areas per flight is compromised. VTOL drones carrying indirect payloads can nonetheless seize huge areas and obtain spectacular vertical accuracy.

Operational concerns

The distinction between photogrammetry and LIDAR grows when contemplating operational and logistical components. To generate high quality outcomes, a LIDAR system requires all of its elements to work completely in sync. Small gaps or errors in sensor measurements can result in vital errors in outputs. Or worse, outputs that “look” proper however usually are not. Strategies like floor management factors (GCPs), that are helpful in photogrammetry to appropriate points, are tougher to implement with LIDAR. More often than not, the one resolution for faulty LIDAR information is to repeat flights.
LIDAR initiatives require an skilled who understands the workflow and particulars of every subsystem and may acknowledge constant and correct information.
In distinction, photogrammetry-based workflows are extra forgiving. The redundancy created by a number of, overlapping photographs of the identical level on the bottom allows error correction throughout processing and interprets to high-accuracy outputs, even in non-ideal circumstances or operations. The shorter studying curve for drone-based photogrammetry (even for operators with no prior expertise), results in higher flexibility and cost-effectiveness.
The benefit of use of photogrammetry options just like the WingtraOne interprets into higher operational flexibility, the power to deploy a number of methods to cowl distributed websites, higher frequency of captures, and total diminished prices.

RotorDrone - Drone News | Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Choosing the right sensors for your job

Photogrammetry permits the creation of correct 3D maps of enormous areas. Photogrammetry outputs additionally embrace high-resolution visible information in full colour for each level on the map to help within the interpretation.

Closing ideas

Now we have explored the variations between how photogrammetry and LIDAR work and the similarities of their outputs and discovered about conditions the place every expertise will be greatest utilized. And whereas some particular functions would possibly justify the price and complexity of LIDAR, photogrammetry can meet a lot of the on a regular basis challenges offered throughout a variety of initiatives and industries, offering distinctive accuracy and stunningly detailed maps, obtainable on demand and with minimal experience overhead.
So in case you don’t want what LIDAR uniquely gives—particularly to mid- or large-scale forests with heavy however penetrable cover—you are able to do extra utilizing photogrammetry coupled with knowledgeable drone for considerably much less cash and complexity.


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