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 components, similar to value and complexity. Figuring out what outputs you really want will assist you to make the appropriate 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 completely different from one another, even when their three-dimensional (3D) outputs look related. 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 a lot of high-resolution images over an space. These pictures overlap such that the identical level on the bottom is seen in a number of images and from completely different vantage factors. In the same manner that the human mind makes use of info from each eyes to offer depth notion, photogrammetry makes use of these a number of vantage factors in pictures to generate a 3D map.
The end result: a high-resolution 3D reconstruction that comprises not solely elevation/top info, but additionally texture, form, and coloration for each level on the map, enabling simpler interpretation of the ensuing 3D level cloud.
Drone techniques that use photogrammetry are value efficient and supply excellent flexibility when it comes to 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 a long time however has solely just lately been accessible in a dimension 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 way of measuring the timing and depth of the returning pulses, it might present readings of the terrain and of factors on the bottom.
The sensor itself is just one a part of a LIDAR system. Critically vital 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 info, a course of referred to as direct geo-referencing.
Because the sensors have developed, there’s now the choice to seize aerial LIDAR information from certainly one of two sorts of techniques: 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 masking extra floor than light-weight UAV LIDAR operations. Particularly, you’ll be able to cowl between 10 and 1,000 sq. kilometers (4 and 400 sq. miles) in a single flight. Absolutely the accuracy relies on the flight top and sensor alternative. At a typical flight top of two,000 meters (6,600 toes) above floor stage (AGL), you’ll be able to anticipate an absolute accuracy restrict of about 20 cm (8 inches) horizontal and 10 cm (4 inches) vertical.
Light-weight drone LIDAR techniques cowl as a lot because the drone permits per flight. As we are going to talk about intimately in under sections, these techniques could 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 instances 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 talk about under.

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

A WingtraOne UAV outfitted 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’ve 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 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 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 laborious surfaces, enabling exact volumetric evaluation.
Word, nevertheless, that in an effort to obtain such efficiency the payload used for photogrammetry have to be an expert one, with the appropriate 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 completely different dimension sensors present completely different picture high quality and accuracy.
Correct mission planning and post-processing are additionally vital for attaining optimum accuracy: good overlap amongst pictures 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 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 one level may be increased, the very best horizontal accuracy of a focal point on the bottom is proscribed by the purpose density.
Crewed aerial LIDAR can present a degree 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 a better 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 could be improved by flying low and gradual on the expense of decreased 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 could be achieved.
On prime 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 presently, the standard absolute accuracy which 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 (prime graph) can generate terrain fashions beneath sparse vegetation the place the bottom is partially seen from the air. (The information 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 better versatility, e.g., photorealistic outputs, due to the high-resolution visible information. There are some functions—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 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 instances like wildfire administration in residential areas and have been utilized by a number of the world’s largest city fireplace and rescue providers for the reason that info serves many stakeholders who want an actual view of what’s occurred.

Topographical maps with medium vegetation could be obtained by way of a mixture of photogrammetry and a technique to seize the bottom under the vegetation. To seize the extra info under the vegetation, floor survey strategies or aerial LIDAR can be utilized. The mix with floor survey strategies retains the worth down whereas guaranteeing excessive accuracy plus the decision and photorealistic outcomes accessible 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 supplies helpful info for venture planning in building (e.g., the planning of latest roads), forest biomass or detailed info on vegetation and habitats by way of topography and underlying terrain, functions falling underneath these circumstances will at all times require LIDAR no less than partly to normalize topographical information.
Usually, state companies attempt to keep fairly 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 possibility accessible. 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 accessible, but light-weight drone LIDAR may 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 large surveys are excellent with the appropriate drone and RGB digital camera. On prime 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 reviews, but additionally to share this info and reconcile with contractors and stakeholders.

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

Powerline pole tower inspection advantages from dwell 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 technique, you get all info inside a really quick period of time. Zoom cameras enable detailed inspection that can’t be provided by photogrammetry or LIDAR..

Rail monitor inspection remains to be most frequently carried out from the bottom—by a prepare outfitted with ultrasonic, LIDAR, and visible sensors. Inspection from the air with both photogrammetry or aerial LIDAR is gaining increasingly curiosity however each strategies are in early phases. Excessive-resolution photogrammetry affords information that avails outputs with the entire important particulars precisely and autonomously whereas saving time. Plus the photorealism provides a component of simple 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 effectively, though their potential 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 issues

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 important errors in outputs. Or worse, outputs that “look” proper however are usually not. 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 resolution for faulty LIDAR information is to repeat flights.
LIDAR initiatives require an professional 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 pictures 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 better flexibility and cost-effectiveness.
The benefit of use of photogrammetry options just like the WingtraOne interprets into better operational flexibility, the flexibility to deploy a number of techniques to cowl distributed websites, better frequency of captures, and total decreased 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 coloration 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 realized about conditions the place every expertise could be greatest utilized. And whereas some particular functions may justify the price and complexity of LIDAR, photogrammetry can meet many of the on a regular basis challenges introduced throughout a variety of initiatives and industries, offering distinctive accuracy and stunningly detailed maps, accessible on demand and with minimal experience overhead.
So for those who 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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