Airborne LiDAR to Remain a Disruptive Trend through 2020

Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) has several benefits associated with it such as fast data acquisition and processing, high accuracy, light and weather independence, minimal human dependence, low cost, canopy penetration, high data density, and additional data that is useful to derive significant information. LiDAR also allows bulk processing, which helps in receiving output fast. Unlike RADAR, this technology can also scan and detect small objects such as dust particles, and is thus in high demand. 

Airborne LiDAR is an emerging trend and is extensively being used to create a number of mapping products. These products include digital elevation models (DEM), contours, digital terrain models (DTM), slope maps, tree height analysis, planimetric mapping, ortho-rectification, and cut and fill modeling. This is further driving the global LiDAR market towards growth. According to a report published by Transparency Market Research (TMR), the global LiDAR market is expected to rise from US$225 mn in 2013 to US$605.5 mn by 2020 expanding at a 15.3% CAGR from 2014 to 2020. 

Q. What are the challenges faced in using LiDAR technology?

The major challenge in using LiDAR technology is the extraction of useful information from the data obtained after scanning as the LiDAR system returns data in bulk. The processing and extraction of useful information from the humungous amount of data is a complex process. However, the impact of this restraint is likely to reduce by the use of airborne LiDAR technology. 

Another factor that poses a threat to the global LiDAR market is the software development gap. This is because, the software program that are coded to program LiDAR hardware usually fail to utilize the entire potential of the hardware. While there is development of new and technologically advanced device circuits, the software used to handle the circuit is not developed, resulting in the gap. Enhancements in LiDAR software can reduce the impact in the near future.

Q. What are the future growth prospects in the LiDAR technology market?

The recent advances in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles hold promising growth prospects for the LiDAR industry. LiDAR equipment has significantly reduced in weight and size and weight and as such, being considered for unmanned aircraft system (UAV) systems. Several new UAV systems were introduced at the International LiDAR Mapping Forum in 2014 held in Denver, Colorado, USA. Of the many innovations showcased, Octocopter UAV, launched by XactMaps was a device carrying a Velodyne HDL-32E LiDAR sensor that weighed only about two pounds. Thus, a growth in UAVs, coupled with high resolution aerial imagery from drones, is one of the fastest emerging market segments offering potential opportunities to the LiDAR market in the coming years. 

Q. What are the strategies adopted by key players in the market?

Companies such as Airborne Hydrography AB, in order to strengthen their market presence and position, are adding technologically innovative products to their portfolio. The company, in June 2014, introduced a dual oblique topographic LiDAR system and a multispectral LiDAR solution for water surveying. It aimed to map shallow water surveying in depths of up to 15 meters. 

Avent Lidar Technology focuses on novel applications of its products. For instance, its Wind Iris LiDAR has helped the U.S.-based renewable energy company, First Wind, in optimizing the performance of its wind turbines, thereby increasing the overall energy production. 


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