Top Questions About Drone LiDAR

Answers to the Top Drone LiDAR Questions

As Microdrones connects with more and more geospatial professionals around the globe, one thing is clear: the world wants to know about drone LiDAR — how it works, how to get started, and what’s currently being done with it.

The speed with which drone-based LiDAR use is spreading is not surprising, given the benefits that this technology provides for users. Microdrones customers who use LiDAR complete jobs more accurately, safely, and cost-effectively in just a fraction of the time it would take them without.

Below are the top questions we’ve most frequently received over the last few months. If your questions aren’t on this list, don’t hesitate to contact the Microdrones team.

1. How much does a LiDAR drone cost?

This question has appeared on previous “FAQ” lists, but the intense frequency with which this inquiry is showing up in our inboxes and web searches recently shows that industries are shifting from research to adoption mode as understanding of the value of drone LiDAR grows.

Thanks to Microdrones as a Service (mdaaS), it is now more affordable than ever to rent or buy the highest quality drone-LiDAR solution. Various price points are available to suit different budgets and situations.

Users can choose to buy a new mdLiDAR drone-based LiDAR system for a cost of around $35,000 USD. This includes the drone, LiDAR payload, and flight planning and navigation software. Data is then processed via mdInfinity software and users can choose to purchase unlimited or pay-per-project payment options.

Users who choose to rent drone LiDAR begin with monthly payment options beginning around $1,400 USD. This option also enables the user to avoid maintenance expenses.

Either of these options constitute a true investment, since these costs will be returned to most users over time through better upfront estimates, time savings on jobs, and clients attracted through the ability to offer the highest levels of accuracy and the latest in drone LiDAR technology.

2. Can you put LiDAR on a drone?

Yes. You can, we do, and our customers have been benefiting from drone-based LiDAR for years. Here is just a small sample of news articles on applications and jobs we and our customers have performed using drone LiDAR. By using drone-based LiDAR, Microdrones users are able to complete more projects more accurately and efficiently, which makes their businesses more profitable.


3. Which drones have LiDAR?

The mdLiDAR family of drone-based LiDAR systems includes mdLiDAR3000LR, mdLiDAR3000, mdLiDAR3000DL, mdLiDAR1000LR, and mdLiDAR1000HR.

As time goes on and more professionals become aware of the value of drone-based LiDAR, an increasing number of unmanned aerial vehicles with laser sensors are coming onto the market. These are obviously not all created equal.

Microdrones drone LiDAR systems are for users who are seeking a fully integrated professional tool that will streamline and simplify their workflows, collect highly accurate data, improve on-the-job safety, and withstand the challenges of working outdoors.

These systems work well for applications like digital twin creation, corridor mapping, mining volume calculation, construction site monitoring, evaluating environmental changes over time, forestry, contour mapping, grading and excavation, archaeological studies, highway construction and power line inspection. 

Contact a Microdrones expert to determine which system is right for your needs and goals.

4. How accurate is a LiDAR?

All Microdrones mdLiDAR systems are impressively accurate. For instance, the family of mdLiDAR3000 integrated solutions achieves an accuracy of 1-3 cm in x, y, and z. The accuracy of the mdLiDAR1000HR system is 4 cm in x, y, and z.

Want more detail on the accuracy of UAV-based LiDAR? Read this academic paper, Geometric Accuracy Assessment of Unmanned Digital Cameras and LiDAR Payloads. Or, check out some drone LiDAR datasets.


Click above to view a drone LiDAR point cloud of a creek basin: 1,800 acre survey in 3 days.

5. Is LiDAR better than Photogrammetry?

Photogrammetry and LiDAR each have their strengths, which are very different, making them each the better choice for certain applications. For instance, an inspector seeking to evaluate detailed cracks in paved surfaces would likely employ photogrammetry, whereas a mining engineer aiming to calculate stockpile volumes or a land development professional creating a digital surface model would be better off using LiDAR.

LiDAR provides some key advantages in industries like surveying, construction, land development, and forestry. While photogrammetry utilizes a camera and can only collect images that can be “seen,” LiDAR is a laser scanner that actively senses the surface of the earth, even in dense canopy due to the laser finding holes in the vegation, producing more accurate models. LiDAR can also be used in any light conditions — whether it’s dark and cloudy, or even at night.

In applications where LiDAR is the best choice, using mdLiDAR solutions will allow you to complete projects much more quickly and accurately. One of the reasons for this is that LiDAR requires significantly less data than photogrammetry, so post-processing times are much faster.

To see the quality products produced by mdLiDAR solutions, check out these LiDAR data sets.

6. Can LiDAR see through walls?

No. One of the key uses for LiDAR — a.k.a. Light Detection and Ranging — is mapping the surface of the earth, even in areas of dense canopy due to the LiDAR finding holes in the vegetation. The LiDAR sensor emits pulsed light waves which reflect off surrounding objects and return to the sensor. The sensor then calculates the distance the light traveled based on the time it took for each pulse to return.

By using LiDAR, the surveyor can produce a much more accurate picture of a job site, leading to better estimates and deliverables. To see drone LiDAR in action is to check out our drone surveying reality show, Down to Earth.

7. How do I get a LiDAR map?

It depends who is asking. If you are a general customer looking for LiDAR data of an area, you will want to contact an aerial surveyor who can collect the data and process it for you, creating a highly accurate surface model or point cloud.

If you are a geospatial professional who is interested in creating LiDAR deliverables for clients and who owns an mdLiDAR solution, you would simply plan your flight of the area using mdCockpit and then run the flight to collect the data. From there, you would take the SD card out of the drone, put it into your computer, and upload the data to mdInfinity, Microdrones processing software. This intuitive data processing program enables you to quickly and easily transform raw survey data into actionable insights. LiDAR requires significantly less time to process than photogrammetry, so you can complete projects faster.

Want more details on creating maps? Watch our webinars on Corridor Mapping or Drone LiDAR Data Processing. You can also contact Microdrones for a demo.

8. What platforms can a scanning LiDAR be mounted on?

There are a number of UAV platforms on the market that claim to be well-suited for carrying LiDAR systems. In reality, most are not designed to achieve professional results.

Microdrones unmanned aerial vehicles boast the qualities required to reliably streamline jobs and collect highly accurate LiDAR data. Some of these include:

  • Extra-long flight times, so you spend more time collecting data and less time changing batteries.
  • Stability. Our quadcopter design ensures better stability for precise results and the UAV instantly responds to changes in the wind to maintain attitude.
  • Lifting power: md4-3000 and md4-1000 drones are designed to be able to lift heavier sensors with ease.
  • Resilience in harsh weather: Microdrones platforms are heat, rain, sand, and salt resistant. Our specialized  molding process keeps electronics safe from the elements and electromagnetic fields.
  • Rugged construction: Robust housing and components enable Microdrones platforms to withstand the rigors of work. Carbon fiber construction is lightweight but strong.
  •  Reliable motors: Ensures minimum downtime.

View our webinar on Should I Invest in Drone Photogrammetry to learn more.


9. What products use LiDAR?

Cars and planes have received a great amount of attention in the news because the average person is commonly exposed to these vehicles and can more easily understand applications and features that use LiDAR to improve navigation, avoid accidents, or even enable self-driving.

However, LiDAR is much more commonly used by geospatial professionals seeking to improve the speed and accuracy of their data collection and processing work. For this type of user, Microdrones offers a family of fully integrated drone-based systems that include LiDAR payloads. These products include mdLiDAR3000LR, mdLiDAR3000, mdLiDAR3000DL, mdLiDAR1000HR, and mdLiDAR1000.

10. Is LiDAR dangerous to eyes?

Microdrones mdLiDAR solutions integrate RIEGL VUX-1UAV LiDAR sensors, which fall into laser eye safety class 1. This means that the laser is safe under all conditions of normal use because the maximum permissible exposure (MPE) can’t be exceeded when viewing the laser with the naked eye. To be categorized in this safety class means that these are among the industry’s safest lasers with products adhering to the most stringent compliance measures.

Many other LiDAR applications may not fall under the same safety class as Microdrones solutions, and the safety of lasers in various circumstances involves complex determinations. Be sure to do your research on the dangers when evaluating solutions not provided by Microdrones, especially non-class 1 solutions.

11. What companies use LiDAR?

LiDAR is used by many companies for a wide range of applications, from law enforcement to robotics to military to conservation — the possibilities for LiDAR use are endless.

Microdrones mdLiDAR solutions are used by a number of different companies around the world. The applications in which we most frequently see our clients using drone-based LiDAR include surveying, mapping and GIS; construction; monitoring earthen dams; mining, forestry; academic research; oil and gas; and erosion control and coastal monitoring. mdLiDAR makes these processes faster, easier, safer, and more cost-effective.

Have questions that weren’t answered here? Contact a member of the Microdrones team to answer all of them. Contact our drone LiDAR experts today.