ARE Corporation – Utilizing UAS Based LiDAR Compared to Photogrammetric Techniques

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS or Drone) provide an alternative approach to traditional terrestrial and aerial acquisition mapping and ground-based surveys. Picking up where traditional methods of acquisition are limited, such as safety, time, expense, and project site accessibility, UAS unlock new opportunities for acquiring geospatial information via LiDAR and photogrammetry.


LiDAR and photogrammetric techniques provide integral solutions for customers at ARE-AirShark. Project criteria including environmental conditions, delivery specifications, budgets, and the ultimate purpose of the data collected dictates which application is better suited. Neither LiDAR nor photogrammetry is better than the other, both having their individual benefits in aerial data collection and processing.

UAS LiDAR Data Acquisition

Utilizing UAS LiDAR, data can be collected from below the tree line and through dense vegetation. The image below showcases an example of UAS LiDAR. This project aimed to support a hydrologic study in evaluating alternatives to reduce stormwater runoff, erosion, and road damage from a steep and complex drainage area. The study site is located in a steep hillside that extends down a road with small pockets of development, dense forest, an abandoned railbed, a gravel road, and a riparian wetland. The goal of the project is to develop concept designs that address sources of runoff within the 80-acre drainage area causing extensive erosion and damage to the road in question, as well as significant sediment loading to a riparian wetland area and river.

As demonstrated through this image to the left, LiDAR is used to assess the terrain under a dense tree canopy utilizing a Riegl miniRANGER LiDAR sensor with a measurement rate of 100,000 pulses per second. The drone flies at 200-400 ft above the ground, capturing data with a density of 80-100 points per square meter, at an accuracy of 2-5 cm.

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