How Drone LiDAR Can Help Businesses Improve Survey Efficiency

Propelling: Helping Businesses and Improving Survey Efficiency with Drone LiDAR

with Samuel Flick

Listen to the latest Propelling podcast in the player below, where Samuel Flick, the Microdrones sales manager for Central Europe, discusses drone LiDAR and its wide range of uses across a broad spectrum of industries. He explains how this drone technology is helping business improve surveying efficiency and becoming more available thanks to Microdrones as a Service, an affordable pricing structure that allows you to easily rent or buy drone surveying equipment. Tune into Propelling or read the summary provided below.


The Benefits of Drone LiDAR

LiDAR has made mapping a less time-consuming task and improved efficiency in the field while offering the promise of more accurate and detailed data.

New pricing options also have increased the affordability of a drone LiDAR system, which in turn can make this state-of-the-art technology more accessible to more customers.

Pricing is one of the most “most misunderstood” issues about LiDAR, said Samuel Flick, Sales Manager for Central Europe at Microdrones. Drone LiDAR systems cost about $120,000 (100,000 Euros) when they first hit the market.

Microdrones is at the forefront of offering pricing flexibility through Microdrones as a Service (mdaaS). Launched in May 2020, mdaaS offers rental and purchase options that can cater to the customer’s needs.

“This is a system where our clients can purchase LiDAR systems at a third of the price,” Flick said. It’s important to work with a company will help the customer find the right solution.

“The message is it’s not for everybody,” Flick added. “But a lot of people can use a drone if they really think about the projects that they have.”

From GPS to LiDAR

LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a method of remote sensing that uses light in laser form to measure distances to the earth. Flick said that LiDAR is being used increasingly for mapping on construction and engineering projects in Germany, Belgium and other areas of central Europe.

“So LiDAR for them means they could do their normal work, but they can do it with more ease and efficiency,” said Flick, who joined Microdrones in 2015.

The older method for mapping involved GPS, which was a time-consuming process. For instance, mapping about 12 acres using GPS might have taken up to a full day.

“And, sometimes, (GPS) is not precise enough,” Flick said.

The increased use of GPS in the 1990s and 2000s for mapping represented a step up in efficiency at that time. Today, the jump from GPS to LiDAR represents the next level of improvement.

Using the same 12-acre example, a LiDAR-equipped drone could cover the same area in about 20 minutes, Flick said.

“And then you'll collect your drone, get into the office, and process the data in our software, which takes you another 30 minutes,” he said. “And then you can start working on your data.”

 “It means that today, you can save really a lot of time by using the LiDAR method,” Flick said.

LiDAR becomes an even more important tool when mapping ground with different slopes or vegetation. In some instances, rocky or uneven terrain can present a danger for in-person survey work.

A LiDAR-equipped drone can help reduce the safety risk. Flick said a good deal of preparation is required ahead of time, especially if a UAV pilot is unable to see the drone throughout the whole flight.

“You still have to have good planning up front,” Flick said, “but definitely, a LiDAR drone would be a good tool” to handle the job.

“It all starts with a good system”

Microdrones offers high-quality, well-regarded products through its mdLiDAR model line. For instance, the mdLiDAR1000HR aaS is a fully integrated system for producing 3D point clouds optimized for land surveying, construction, energy and mining applications.

One European client turned to Microdrones to get precise survey results ahead of a road-building project. A task that once took six workers more than a week to complete took about a couple days with just a couple crew members.

“It all starts with a good system. You need to have a good hardware and good sensors. But this is just one part,” Flick said.

“Let's say that you get quality data, but then you have to do something with it. You have the point clouds, which has some noise, which has all the layers. You have the integration of the sensors,” he said. “Where we improve the data is with our software.”

The mdInfinity software gives clients the tools needed to work with the point clouds and edit the data to get the desired results. For example, Flick said, a customer could use mdInfinity to create a very thin point cloud with a high accuracy with direct point cloud colorization.

Many other modules are available through mdInifinity, and Microdrones continues to research and develop new options in response to customer requests.

“And that is what I think is a big value to the customer,” Flick said.


Flexibility and affordability

Microdrones as a Service can make this state-of-the-art technology affordable for more clients, given the assortment of options to acquire and configure both the hardware and software.

Here are the basics: 

  1. Choose the integrated system for your mapping and drone projects.
  2. Select how to pay for that surveying equipment. There are two options: 
    1. Buy it. You are responsible for maintenance and any upgrades.
    2. Rent it through a hardware as a service agreement. Microdrones handles all the maintenance and upgrades.
  3. Pick your data processing plan. You may want to pay per project or go with an unlimited option if you’re a heavy user. 

Whether rented or bought outright, hardware is linked to the software. The flexibility can allay the concerns of customers especially wary about the bottom line.

“Depending on what makes more sense, the customer could either pay per project or pay a flat rate for unlimited use. That helps to reduce the cost,” Flick said.

It’s also important for a customer to work with someone who will determine the best solution. For Flick, that means sitting down with a client to first determine their desired results.

“And then we see which system makes sense. For instance, does it make sense to use a drone? If so, for sure, we will provide a good solution and find a way good way to work together,” Flick said. “It's really what matters to the client at the end and what results they want to get.”

If you would like more information on adding drone Lidar into your workflow through Microdrones as a Service CLICK HERE to speak with one of our representatives