How to Use Drone Surveying Equipment to Cover More Ground with the mdLiDAR1000LR

The mdLiDAR1000LR, part of the GE industrial drone line, is an end-to-end solution that allows professionals to collect ultra-dense LiDAR data from a longer range.

A closer look at the mdLiDAR1000LR:


Deploying drone LiDAR can be a huge time-saver, efficiently giving surveyors and other professionals the rich data they need to keep projects moving forward. LiDAR cuts through vegetation to provide a level of detail not possible with traditional photogrammetry, and when flown from above, gives users access to remote, dangerous areas they couldn’t otherwise get to.

While the benefits are clear, these systems can be expensive—keeping some professionals from incorporating the technology into their workflow. The team at Microdrones is working to change that with the GE industrial drone line, which includes the mdLiDAR1000HR and the mdLiDAR1000LR. These systems require a significantly smaller investment than the company’s Expert drone line, making robust end-to-end drone-based LiDAR solutions available to more professionals, said Frank Darmayan COO, Microdrones.

The mdLiDAR1000LR is the newest member of the GE industrial drone line and “picks up where the mdLiDAR1000HR leaves off,” Darmayan said. LR stands for longer range, one of the main advantages this solution brings. Combined with a higher point density and an upgraded camera, the mdLiDAR1000LR can be deployed for a variety of applications, taking the benefits even further.

“It’s used in a lot of similar situations as our other LiDAR-based systems,” Darmayan said. “The big one is surveying and mapping. It also can be used to monitor cut and fills and grading work through the process of a construction job. Creating digital twins also has become a popular workflow, and this is a tool that can help with that.”

No matter the application, the mdLiDAR1000LR makes it easy for professionals to invest in and deploy drone-based LiDAR. They know they’re getting a robust system from a trusted company, and at a price that fits their budget.

The mdLiDAR1000LR

The Scanner

The mdLiDAR1000LR comes equipped with the Velodyne Ultra-PUCK VLP-32—a top of the line LiDAR scanner with 4 cm accuracy. The scanner can capture details from a much longer range than most other systems, enabling users to cover more area per flight.

Take powerlines as an example. The mdLiDAR1000LR can capture details at 75m for distribution and 90m for transmission—that’s double the HR’s range.

Then there’s the point density. The scanner features 32 channels for LiDAR collection, almost double what the HR offers. Flying at 100m Above Ground Level (AGL) with 20% sidelap, for example, the system can cover more than 1.2 square kilometers in a 30-minute flight and capture a point density of 150 points per square meter.

“The range and the point density are the two key benefits of this system,” Darmayan said. “It can fly at 120 meters above ground level and get returns that are useable. That’s huge.”

The LiDAR Sensor: Velodyne Ultra-PUCK VLP-32 and the Camera: A Microdrones CMOS APS-C 26MP (23.5mmx15.6mm)

The Camera

One of the biggest differences between the HR and the LR is the camera. The HR comes with a five-megapixel camera while the LR’s is 26.

“With a 26-megapixel camera you can do more with the imagery,” Darmayan said. “It lends itself more to photogrammetry, so you have a photogrammetry tool and not just point cloud colorization. The camera is definitely a big deal for this system.”

The camera also has a smaller footprint than the scanner and a smaller field of view (50 degrees versus 90 degrees). That makes it possible to fly a mission with LiDAR only and then fly another with the camera to tighten up and colorize the point cloud. The camera also takes more overlap during that second flight, again lending itself to photogrammetry.

With its extended range and its 90-de-gree FOV, the mdLiDAR1000LR can cover a lot of ground fast, Darmayan said.

The range and the point density are the two key benefits of this system. It can fly at 120 meters above ground level and get returns that are useable. That’s huge.

Frank Darmayan COO, Microdrones

The Platform

Microdrones introduced an updated version of the md4-1000 platform with the LR system, with one of the biggest changes the move from a three-bladed prop system back to two. The team also upgraded the motors, increasing the platform’s efficiency by 10% and improving flight times.

“Two-bladed props are easier to manage than three,” Darmayan said. “They don’t get in the way as much when you’re working in the field.”

There’s now a small scanner on the front of the platform that’s dedicated to ground collision avoidance, Darmayan said. If it detects something under the drone at 10 meters, it will send a warning. If the object gets within five meters, it will stop the mission, a safety feature that keeps the drone from colliding with the tops of trees.

LED light rings were added to the bottom of the platform, another safety feature that also allows for night flights.

Remote ID has been enabled with this vehicle for the EU, and is in the works for the U.S. as well.

As with all Microdrones systems, the mdLiDAR1000LR comes with a charger and flight battery, a rugged carrying case and integrated cooling covers designed to enhance cooling and motor longevity.

Click the image above for a closer view of this Drone LiDAR dataset, collected with the mdLiDAR1000LR

The Process

The mdLiDAR1000LR follows the Microdrones plan, fly, process, visualize workflow. Mission planning begins in mdCockpit and is then verified in the field. Once the mdLiDAR1000LR finishes the flights, a point cloud is created and processed through mdInfinity for a complete end-to-end solution.

Trajectory Processing, Geocoding, Precision Enhancement, Colorization and Ground Classification are the modules typically used to further enhance the data post flight. There are also modules pilots can use in the field to assess the accuracy of the data collected, such as trajectory quality control and LiDAR coverage preview.

“You can leave the site knowing everything checks out and what you have will be well-received back at the office,” Darmayan said. “Once you’re done with the field work, you can use mdInfinity to enhance the data. They’re all very user-friendly tools to interact with, so when you fly the mdLiDAR1000LR you can go from planning to fully processed using all Microdrones products.”

The mdLiDAR1000LR is an end-to-end solution that provides users with everything they need to easily create accurate, robust point clouds, efficiently collecting data from longer ranges—all at a price point that fits into more budgets.

“As these systems continue to develop, use in the field is getting more user friendly,” Darmayan said. “And as mission planning and processing software get more user friendly, it makes access to drone-based LiDAR possible for more markets.”

If you're interested in adding the mdLiDAR1000LR to your drone surveying toolbox, talk to one of our friendly sales representatives today.