Photogrammetry vs. LIDAR – Selecting the best sensors in your job

In drone survey missions, the selection between photogrammetry and LIDAR relies upon closely on the precise utility. You additionally want to contemplate operational elements, resembling value and complexity. Realizing what outputs you actually need will allow you to make the proper choice.
What’s LIDAR and the way does its output examine 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 related. We’ll then dig deeper into particular purposes and the way photogrammetry can present distinctive outcomes for many missions at a fraction of the associated fee and complexity of LIDAR.
Photogrammetry {and professional}, high-resolution cameras can cost-effectively generate 2D and 3D surveys, with absolute accuracies all the way 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 a lot of high-resolution photographs over an space. These photographs overlap such that the identical level on the bottom is seen in a number of photographs and from totally different vantage factors. In an identical manner 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/top data, but in addition texture, form, and shade for each level on the map, enabling simpler interpretation of the ensuing 3D level cloud.
Drone programs 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 price of a crewed plane.


LIDAR, which stands for “gentle detection and ranging,” is a know-how that has been round for a lot of a long time however has solely lately been obtainable in a measurement and energy possible for carrying on giant 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. By measuring the timing and depth of the returning pulses, it may possibly 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 area—an inertial measurement unit (IMU). All of those high-end subsystems should work in good 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 considered one of two sorts of programs: classical manned airborne and light-weight UAV.
Classical airborne LIDAR surveys are carried out from a crewed airplane and are much less correct however able to protecting extra floor than light-weight UAV LIDAR operations. Particularly, you may cowl between 10 and 1,000 sq. kilometers (4 and 400 sq. miles) in a single flight. Absolutely the accuracy is dependent upon the flight top and sensor selection. At a typical flight top of two,000 meters (6,600 toes) above floor stage (AGL), you may anticipate an absolute accuracy restrict of about 20 cm (8 inches) horizontal and 10 cm (4 inches) vertical.
Light-weight drone LIDAR programs cowl as a lot because the drone permits per flight. As we are going to focus on intimately in beneath sections, these programs 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 guide, 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 now have seen, photogrammetry and aerial LIDAR differ in the way in which factors on the bottom are registered. This straight impacts the ultimate level cloud accuracy and we are going to 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 high quality, high-resolution, full-frame sensor digicam 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 laborious surfaces, enabling exact volumetric evaluation.
Be aware, nonetheless, that as a way to obtain such efficiency the payload used for photogrammetry should be an expert one, with the proper picture sensor and lens to seize extra element. It’s not simply in regards to the variety of pixels. Actually, two cameras with the identical variety of megapixels and totally different measurement 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 supplies higher error correction in comparison with full reliance on the direct geo-referencing technique utilized in LIDAR. A high-end drone system with skilled mission planning and post-processing workflow helps be certain 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 an alternative shoots the beams at a set frequency in an outlined sample. Even when the horizontal accuracy of the one level could be increased, one of the best horizontal accuracy of a focal point on the bottom is proscribed by the purpose density.
Crewed aerial LIDAR can present some extent density of as much as 50 factors per sq. meter and affords a typical absolute accuracy of 20 cm horizontal and 10 cm vertical if flown at an ordinary top of two,000 meters (6,600 toes) AGL.
By flying decrease, light-weight UAV LIDAR supplies the next level density than crewed aerial LIDAR and may obtain higher accuracy despite the fact that 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 decreased effectivity.
Within the case of LIDAR on fixed-wing drones, some extent 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 is dependent upon the precision of the LIDAR itself and the standard of the INS (IMU and GNSS) system. Contemplating all technological developments and system variables at the moment, the everyday absolute accuracy you can anticipate 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 Functions

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

Topographical maps that includes gentle vegetation (sparse tree stands or open cover) are finest 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 among the world’s largest city hearth and rescue providers for the reason that data serves many stakeholders who want an actual view of what’s occurred.

Topographical maps with medium vegetation will be obtained through a mix of photogrammetry and a way 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 mix with floor survey strategies retains the value 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 finest acquired through manned airborne LIDAR. A digital terrain mannequin (DTM) of the forest floor supplies helpful data for mission planning in building (e.g., the planning of recent roads), forest biomass or detailed data on vegetation and habitats through topography and underlying terrain, purposes falling beneath these circumstances will all the time require LIDAR at the least partly 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 tasks with low decision necessities, manned airborne LIDAR is probably the most cost-effective possibility obtainable. If a extra correct or up-to-date DTM of a small forest is required, a conventional floor survey would be the least expensive possibility obtainable, but light-weight drone LIDAR would possibly fill a distinct segment in-between.

Naked-earth mining, volumetric and pure useful resource surveys are finest dealt with by high-end RGB payloads. Even huge surveys are perfect with the proper drone and RGB digicam. 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 experiences, but in addition to share this data and reconcile with contractors and stakeholders.

Energy line surveys for vegetation management will be finished 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 possibility. Analysis is ongoing round photogrammetry as a go-to, cost-effective answer.

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 pictures of simply and safely. With this technique, you get all data inside a really brief period of time. Zoom cameras permit detailed inspection that can’t be supplied by photogrammetry or LIDAR..

Rail observe inspection remains 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 affords 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 spread of questions.

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

Metropolis mapping with vertical constructions 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 properly, though their potential to cowl wide-spread areas per flight is compromised. VTOL drones carrying indirect payloads can nonetheless seize broad areas and obtain spectacular vertical accuracy.

Operational issues

The distinction between photogrammetry and LIDAR grows when contemplating operational and logistical elements. To generate high quality outcomes, a LIDAR system requires all of its parts 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 aren’t. Strategies like floor management factors (GCPs), that are helpful in photogrammetry to right points, are tougher to implement with LIDAR. More often than not, the one answer for misguided LIDAR information is to repeat flights.
LIDAR tasks 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 situations or operations. The shorter studying curve for drone-based photogrammetry (even for operators with no prior expertise), results in larger flexibility and cost-effectiveness.
The benefit of use of photogrammetry options just like the WingtraOne interprets into larger operational flexibility, the flexibility to deploy a number of programs to cowl distributed websites, larger frequency of captures, and general decreased prices.

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

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

Remaining ideas

We now have explored the variations between how photogrammetry and LIDAR work and the similarities of their outputs and realized about conditions the place every know-how will be finest utilized. And whereas some particular purposes would possibly justify the associated fee and complexity of LIDAR, photogrammetry can meet a lot of the on a regular basis challenges offered throughout a spread of tasks and industries, offering distinctive accuracy and stunningly detailed maps, obtainable on demand and with minimal experience overhead.
So in the event you don’t want what LIDAR uniquely supplies—particularly to mid- or large-scale forests with heavy however penetrable cover—you are able to do extra utilizing photogrammetry coupled with an expert drone for considerably much less cash and complexity.

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