Sustainable Energy vs. Renewable Energy: What’s the Difference?

From residential to commercial, sustainable energy and renewable energy development are both at the forefront of everyone’s minds. But what exactly is the difference between “sustainable” and “renewable” energy? Does the sustainable energy definition really differ from renewable? Let’s take a look at sustainable energy vs. renewable energy, especially in terms of what companies can expect today.

What is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy is perhaps the simplest thing to think about. Renewable energy is energy that comes from renewable sources. An example is crops or biomatter. Energy that comes from, say, oil or natural gas is not renewable, because there is no easy way for these resources to be renewed. Because of the amount of time it takes for natural gas and oil to form, natural gas and oil can eventually be depleted; there is an effectively finite amount.

However, renewable energy from sources such as algae or biofilm can be easily replenished. The reason renewable energy has not eclipsed non-renewable energy is because it takes more time and effort to produce. But it does recover, which is the more important aspect.

Other types of renewable energy include hydro-electric power. While effectively this power is sustainable (it will continue), it does convert energy from water into raw energy that can be used. Because of this, it is dampening the flow of the water, and is not always able to run indefinitely. 

What is Sustainable Energy?

Sustainable energy is energy that can never be depleted and doesn’t need to be produced. Sustainable energy is like the sun and the wind. Technically, the sun’s energy is finite, but not on a scale that matters to us on earth.

Sustainable energy is what most of the world is currently moving toward. Wind and solar power are becoming more affordable and more refined. With sustainable energy sources, energy can be acquired that is not finite, that can continuously be milled.

All sustainable energy can be considered renewable energy. But not all renewable energy can be considered sustainable energy. And renewable resources can potentially become unsustainable. As an example, tidal forces can be used to capture energy, but (in the very unlikely) event that all tidal forces or even most tidal forces were captured, it would be disruptive to the surrounding environments.

Of course, there are still issues. For instance, the machines that need to be built to use sustainable energy may require finite resources. Solar panels can take a lot of energy to produce even today, which means that there is an upfront cost of energy. No system is truly lossless.

Should Businesses Target Sustainable or Renewable Energy?

Both sustainable and renewable energy sources are critical. Often, businesses will use the sources that make the most sense for them. Wind farms may not be feasible in one environment, but hydropower might be. There is not really a major distinction between sustainable and renewable energy. For a large part, when people talk about sustainable and renewable energy sources, they are talking about products that are both. Wind power and solar power are both sustainable and renewable and they are widely considered to be the best, most reasonable, and most feasible replacements for our current non-renewable energy sources.

At the same time, the distinction can be important, because there are resources that are near-sustainable or near-renewable; there are resources that may renew, but may not be able to renew quickly.

Regardless of sustainable energy vs renewable energy, both concepts are very important to the modern business. Today, most businesses are trying to go green. That’s not just for public perception, which is important, but also because sustainability is important for everyone. Without sustainability, things will become more important, and ultimately, the harm to the environment will affect everyone. 

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Natural Gas Infrastructure Demands in 2021

The natural gas infrastructure went through major changes and pressures throughout 2020. 2020 was an unprecedented time for the energy industry, and both oil and gas saw declines in 2020 — especially early in the year. But natural gas is rebounding and demand is improving, and this is expected to continue throughout 2021. Let’s take a look at how the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford shale regions are being developed, as well as the current natural gas demand.

Permian Basin Oil Production

It’s believed that Permian Basin oil is going to rebound significantly through 2021. Natural gas production is more stable than oil production, seeing fewer valleys. For oil, there was a steep drop off in late 2020. For natural gas, production was relatively stable throughout. 

Regardless, Permian Basin oil production and natural gas production are at highs. Permian basin pipeline capacity has been increased as of January, primarily by the Permian Highway Pipeline, which can move 2.1 billion cubic feet per day.

The Permian Basin is, of course, one of the most important oil producing areas, accounting for 40 percent of the US oil. But for natural gas, everything is more distributed; only 15 percent of natural gas is produced in the Permian Basin. Gas production has started to exceed pipeline capacity in the Permian Basin and, consequently, prices have started to fall.

Eagle Ford Shale Development

About 40 percent of Eagle Ford’s shale production is expected to be within the first five years of development, so there will be a substantial decline thereafter. However, this should produce a significant amount of oil and natural gas that will then be able to be put into distribution.

Eagle Ford Shale is one of the most significant economic investments in Texas’ history and is of significant importance to the state and the industry. Nevertheless, Eagle Ford’s production is expected to decline in 2021 by about 10 percent. This will not be a permanent decline, however. By 2022, both oil and natural gas are going to be more in demand, and both the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin regions should be in full production.

The Eagle Ford pipeline capacity, which connects to the Permian basin, will be 450,000 barrels per day. Further, if the Eagle Ford shale trend improves, capacity could be increased to 540,000 / day. The Eagle Ford shale reserves are expected to last up to 30 years. Regardless, the Eagle Ford shale pipeline has boosted capacity significantly.

Natural Gas Infrastructure Demands

It’s easy to see that production levels are improving, throughout both the oil and natural gas industries. But demand is increasing. EIA has increased price forecasts and expects higher wholesale United States natural gas prices. The EIA expects that electricity consumption could rise up to 1.3 percent in 2021. 

Of course, that also means that consumers may be seeing higher bills. But higher usage is also predicted. As businesses start to operate again and economies start to flow, it’s likely that natural gas will start to be used even more — that includes restaurants, with the restaurant industry being significantly weakened by COVID-19, and the travel industry, which has been effectively stalled over the course of the last year. 

During COVID-19, energy production saw a drop in demand due to the drop in activity throughout the world. Many businesses were shuttered, and many individuals ceased to travel. Oil, more linked to traffic, suffered substantially more than natural gas, more linked to household use. 

Natural gas and oil are both on the rebound. Though a significant amount of energy use dropped during COVID-19, industries are now recovering and starting into action. Due to economic and business stimulus, it’s likely that the economy will be opening up again shortly. Because of that, construction is going to resume on pipelines, pipelines are going to start moving again, and the natural gas and oil industries are very likely to continue to grow. Both natural gas and oil are still at highs relative to the last decade — and growing.

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Where Is Construction Booming in the United States?

As the economy reopens following the depths of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s likely that construction is going to be booming in quite a lot of areas. So, where is construction booming around the United States?

What is a Construction Boom?

A construction boom is an atypical increase in construction in a specific area of the country. Often, it occurs because of new opportunities in an area. When new industrial developments begin, for instance, residential properties are often created around them. When cities start to expand, properties arise in the surrounding areas as “bedroom communities.” Construction booms can also occur after depressed times (such as the COVID-19 pandemic), because the industry is artificially slowed. Now, following the pandemic, many companies are starting to build again.

Where is Construction Booming?

The construction forecast is interesting because the United States is currently contemplating increased and more permanent reliance on work-from-home infrastructure. It’s difficult to anticipate which areas are going to grow when remote workers may actually be fleeing higher-priced cities. Consequently, it’s possible that some developments may be seen in areas that were traditionally ignored; some developers may be rolling the dice on more rural locales.

Most importantly, the infrastructure market is likely to see some increases. Companies are still hesitant to get into commercial building and residential properties are going to be delayed, often because subcontractors can be difficult to contract following the pandemic. But the White House has announced its intention to invest in infrastructure projects, which means construction companies may be working with government contracts.

The construction industry is facing many challenges. Foremost, it faces the challenges of uncertainty. It’s difficult for anyone to know when the last of the effects from the pandemic will truly end and when people will feel safe and comfortable starting to fully return to commercial office complexes, and otherwise invest in commercial real estate. Many companies are trying their best to protect their employees. And many subcontractors have gone out of business or have paused their subcontracting, which means general contractors are finding it very difficult to get the workers they need. These are universal problems which are going to haunt the construction industry for some time.

What Areas of the US Are Growing?

In 2021, it looks like the states that are seeing the majority growth are Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Washington, and Nevada. These are the states that are most likely to see residential developments, because they are the states that are going to require them.

The fastest-growing cities are still in Texas. Though the oil industry did suffer setbacks in 2020, it’s now starting to recover. This fuels the economy. More people are moving into Texas, which also means that more homes are going to be developed out of a necessity.

Continued growth in the new homes market indicates that new homes are still being built, but largely in areas where the market moves very fast. That includes areas such as New York, Pennsylvania, and New Orleans. And those who are working remotely may take the opportunity not only to move to more rural areas, but also to move to more desirable areas.

Altogether, there’s a lot of reason to believe that while development is slowed, it’s going to start booming soon, and in quite a lot of regions. This is because there are many reasons to build in many areas, whether it’s a growing economy, or a fast-paced housing market.

While we may not see a completely booming construction industry until 2022, the United States is going to see a significant increase in construction throughout 2021. Many projects that haven’t yet broken ground are going to break ground now because the pandemic pause is no longer a factor. One thing is sure, however; there will be need for land property survey companies like Landpoint in advance of all this construction.

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What Should You Look for in a Utility Inspection Provider?

Finding a reliable utility inspection provider is important both in terms of cost and safety. Whether a company is running older systems, brand new systems, or middle-of-the-line systems, there are unique challenges that will be faced. A utility inspection provider is the first line of defense against more significant and damaging issues. 

But how do you find a utility inspection provider that will work well for you? 

Here are a few important questions to ask.

What equipment do they have experience in?

As equipment ages, skills gaps can be introduced. There may not be technicians who are familiar with equipment from the 70s, 90s, or even 00s. But it also isn’t always the oldest equipment in operation that gives a company the most problems. Many older technologies are reliable, and newer technologies can require additional training.

With all that in mind, companies need to be conscientious about the technology they have and whether their utility inspection provider is well-versed in it. Ideally, the provider should have technicians who are specialists in every type of technology the power company is using. 

Do they have advanced software or hardware technology?

The role of a utility inspection provider is changing; it’s becoming far more robust. With new, advanced solutions such as drones and machine learning, inspection providers can learn much more about a system, and identify potential issues with greater levels of reliability. But not all inspection providers have changed over to new technology. Ask about the provider’s systems, how they deliver their inspections, and what they’re doing to modernize their solutions. 

Are there any testimonials or reviews available?

Customer testimonials and third-party reviews are a great resource. While they can’t always tell you the detailed benefits of working with an inspection provider, what it will do is tell you any major problems that many people have experienced. You can also take a look at the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any formal complaints lodged. Ask the provider about any negative reviews you see. They may be able to explain it, or even describe changes that they’ve made since.

What are the costs involved in the inspections?

One of the advantages of better technology is that an inspection provider can pass savings along to the customer. With better technology, inspections can be done safer and faster. If you’re vetting several inspection providers, you’ll want to know which have the best rates. But don’t choose based on rates alone. While one provider might have slightly higher rates than others, they may also have greater levels of accuracy.

Are they specialized in any particular energy industry?

Does the company deal with city electrical inspection? Or private solar systems? UAV for energy products will vary, depending on whether the company manages renewable energy sources or traditional energy sources. Renewable energy sources are continuing to emerge into the mainstream and are becoming an important part of the global energy future. Traditional energy sources are still necessary and vital, and they require different types of inspections. It’s best to deal with inspection providers who have clients with the same industry you’re in.

When can they get involved?

There are different levels to a utility company, from first development to later maintenance. Whether the company is better at the initial land surveying and project planning or focuses primarily on maintenance and repairs will matter. Your company may want to have a valuable partner that can work with you from the beginning to the end… or you may just need a company that can help you with your general maintenance.

It’s worth it to take a little more time to explore your options when trying to find a utility inspection provider. After all, the inspection provider is going to be guarding your most important assets. If you want to learn more about how inspections can help your organization, and how best-in-class technologies matter, contact the experts at Landpoint.

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Why Drones are Essential for Power Line Inspection

26 power line workers are electrocuted every year. It’s a dangerous job. Strangulation, falling, and other hazards are all risks that must be mitigated and guarded against. But all this can be virtually erased with the use of safe, cost-effective, and accurate drone powerline inspections. Drones can be used for everything from solar power inspections to construction site safety surveys, and they’re also revolutionizing the industry of power line inspection. For areas where physical technicians may need to put their safety on the line, drones are essential.

How Drone Powerline Inspection Produces Faster, More Efficient Results

Drones are able to map out an area quickly, zipping through power lines while still avoiding towers and other potential hazards. Since drones are agile, small, and lightweight, they can cover a lot of territory that a traditional aerial vehicle could not. And, because they aren’t manned, they don’t represent any human danger. 

Through the 3D mapping system, drones can determine the most efficient routes through even larger installations. They can fly a complete circuit between areas, and complete complex data collection, including both photography and laser scanning. Once the data has been recorded, it can be viewed by an expert operator, who can identify any potential issues. Drones can even be fitted with sensors so they can detect abnormalities, such as unusual heat signals.

Better and More Frequent Power Line Inspections

When power line inspections require a significant amount of work hours (and potential danger to technicians), they aren’t done as frequently. It’s mildly dangerous to just climb a tower, and no one wants to do that if it isn’t necessary. But with drones, power line inspections can be conducted more frequently, leading to more consistent results and reduced power outages.

Data collected from drones can also be fed into machine learning systems to begin anticipating potential issues, and to generate more accurate maintenance schedules. Together with IoT devices, sensors, and machine learning technology, power-line solutions can become more effective overall.

While drone technology has existed for some time, the new, intelligent drone systems, and better software and hardware, are making drones more effective at more complex tasks. As drone technology continues to advance, it’s likely that a great deal of inspection, scanning, and surveying processes will become off-loaded to them.

Improved Safety and Quality-of-Life for Technicians

With drones, the role of the technician switches from potentially putting themselves in precarious, dangerous positions, and into what they do best: diagnostics and analysis. Better safety leads to a happier and more conscientious workforce, in addition to overall reduced costs and better quality of work. 

No company wants to be responsible for disasters and incidents, but the truth is that any line inspection, whether it’s power lines or telephone lines, has the potential to be dangerous, even with proper safety precautions. Up until fairly recently, manual line inspections were also a necessity. Drone technology has advanced to the point where it can now safely replace many high-risk inspection tasks.

Power line inspections no longer need to be dangerous or time-consuming, and that’s great news for the power industry. From companies that are specializing in wind power, to companies that are managing large scale power distribution networks, drones can be used to ensure that maintenance and upkeep is followed, and that potentially dangerous issues are noted before they become a problem. 

Drones for the Power Industry

But drones aren’t just valuable for inspections. They can also be used during the development of power lines, to survey locations and scan them, and to create 3D models and simulations of the future installations. They can be used throughout the process of developing and setting in power lines to ensure that the development is going smoothly. And they can be used for other elements of the power system, such as inspecting power equipment and power facilities.

As technicians become more accustomed to working from photographs, aerial views, and simulations, they will also become more effective at quickly diagnosing issues without having to introduce high-risk human intervention. The energy market is being transformed with drone technology, leading to lower costs, reduced risk, and better uptime. For more information about how drones can help the power industry, contact the experts at LandPoint.

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How to Find Expert Natural Gas Inspection Companies

The world of pipeline surveying and inspection is getting a boost through new, advanced surveying technologies — designed to improve upon the pre-planning, planning, and maintenance stages of oil field projects. Today, new survey technologies can get your pipeline project off the ground faster, resulting in reduced delays and fewer potential reworks. Here’s what you need to know about new pipeline surveying technology and how to find expert natural gas inspection companies.

The Benefits of Natural Gas Inspection and Surveying

Drone services can be used for complete oil and gas pipeline inspections, beginning with the original pipeline surveying. For natural gas facilities, surveying can be completed to determine whether there may be obstructions on the planned path, to simulate impact to the environment, and to identify any other issues that might arise when the project is underway. Proper surveying saves an organization a significant amount of money, by improving the accuracy of the plans.

In addition to preliminary surveying, natural gas inspection companies are able to ensure that pipelines and natural gas facilities are well-maintained and prepared as needed. Regular natural gas safety inspection can catch issues as they arise, rather than when they become problematic. New IoT devices and sensors can be used to capture even more complicated information around natural gas installations, identifying potential leaks, unusual levels of heat, and other irregularities.

When it comes to natural gas, safety and environmental issues are a major priority. Better, more frequent, and more timely inspections are an excellent way for a company to improve the safety of their operations from the very beginning of the project. But in addition to safety, natural gas inspection can also make a natural gas site more predictable, reliable, and profitable — companies will find that as their inspections increase, their productivity will, too. Safer, well-maintained sites lead to better production time.

Finding the Right Natural Gas Inspection Companies

The core benefits of natural gas inspection aside, how can a company find the right inspection companies? Many natural gas inspection companies only specialize in residential or development services, rather than serving the natural gas industry. Here are some important things to consider.

  • Technology. Are inspections being completed manually or through the use of advanced technology such as UAVs? UAVs are faster, safer, and more efficient when it comes to pipeline inspection. UAVs are able to fly close to infrastructure, identify problems with extreme accuracy, and do not put any human operators at risk. In addition to the physical technology, ask about the software and data. How is data saved, stored, and analyzed? How will it be accessed?
  • Experience. Does the UAV company frequently serve the natural gas industry, or are they more focused on other types of surveying and inspection? While there are many UAV companies that have the capacity to perform a pipeline or natural gas inspection, not all of them specialize. Specialists are more likely to be experts and are more likely to deliver accurate and meaningful information. 
  • Reputation. Have they been in the industry long? Do they have clients who can vouch for them? As drone technology advances and its benefits are seen, there are many new UAV companies who may not have enough experience with natural gas inspection. Look for companies that have been using UAVs and related surveying technology for a long time, and understand the intricacies of these technologies inside and out.

It’s important to spend the time to find the right inspection company, as these inspection companies will be responsible for keeping your site safe and operational. The right natural gas inspection companies will be able to operate as a partner, helping you through the initial stages of your project and continued maintenance, repairs, and expansion. For more information about the benefits of oil and gas drone technology, contact the experts at Landpoint.

Types of Land Survey Services: Which Do You Need?

Land surveying covers a wide variety of products and services, depending on the type of surveying that’s needed for a project. Not only does surveying occur during different stages of a project and for a variety of industries, but it’s also completed with the use of different methods and technologies. Here is a complete overview of the different types of land surveying services, including which types of land surveying are most likely to be of use for you.

Land Surveying Basics: How is Surveying Performed?

Land surveying can be completed through manned aerial missions, unmanned aerial vehicles, and manned ground travel. Surveying is one of the oldest professions in existence. Before anything can be built, the land must be surveyed and perimeters must be marked. The surrounding area must be cleared, any major issues have to be identified, and often environmental studies need to be completed.

Originally, ground travel was the most common method of land survey, and it’s still used when smaller areas are being surveyed. Surveyors use a variety of tools to map out the topography of an area by hand. Usually, this type of land surveying is used to do things like draw out simple boundary lines within suburban and urban areas. It takes time and poses some risk to the surveyors themselves.

Once airplanes and helicopters became a viable method of surveying, large surveys became far more feasible. But there are still some problems with these types of manned aerial missions: They’re expensive and can be dangerous. Even with the rigorous modern safety standards of airplanes and helicopters, there is always some level of risk when it comes to sending a crew into the air.

Today, surveying is often best performed through unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Commonly known as drones, UAVs make it possible to scan terrain quickly without any surveyors ever having to be in the air. But planes, drones, and helicopters are only the methods of collecting the information; surveys also differ in how the information is collected, and how the information is used. Surveying usually uses two different types of technology to collect data: photogrammetric imaging and LiDAR imaging. Photogrammetric imaging captures information through a sequence of photos. LiDAR imaging captures information using highly precise laser scanning, for high precision land surveying.

Types of Land Surveying Services: When Do You Need a Survey?

Boundary surveys, construction staking, easement surveys, land partitions, well staking, topographic mapping, and more: There are countless types of surveying that may be needed for a project. Surveys can be completed pre-design, during the design, to manage the project, and even after the project — for the purposes of maintenance and repairs. When you need a land survey depends on how your project will use the survey, and the surveyor you hire.

Pre-design surveys are often used to simulate how a project will interact with the environment, how it will look and feel, and how much it will cost. During construction, surveys can improve the safety of the work site, and ensure that everything is progressing as it should. Post construction, surveys can be used to identify any potential problems, and to see whether maintenance or repair issues have arisen. 

The Industries of Land Surveying: How Do Different Industries Use their Surveys?

Land surveying is used throughout virtually every industry. Pipeline companies use surveying to identify the ideal routes for their pipelines in the pre-planning stages, as well as identify any potential issues with the surrounding environment. Solar companies use surveys to determine the most efficient placement of their solar panels, and to maintain their solar panels through inspections later. Construction companies often use land surveying as a way of simulating their projects before they even begin, and they can capture information for the future — such as for modifications and expansions.

Altogether, since land surveying is such a broad process, it can be difficult to know exactly what type of land survey service is needed. But that’s why there are land surveying companies. Land surveying companies can go over the details of your project and your needs to determine the ideal land surveying process for you. Contact Landpoint today to start with your consultation.

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What Sets a Commercial UAV Apart from a Consumer Model?

Ten years ago, UAVs were almost strictly within the purview of commercial applications. Today, many households have UAVs at home. UAVs are everything from toys for children to highly advanced, professional machines. But where is the line drawn? What are the differences between a commercial UAV and a consumer model? How can you tell the difference?

Here’s everything you need to know about what distinguishes commercial UAVs from consumer models.

The Commercial UAV

Today, commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are being used in everything from construction to the energy industry. UAVs are used for surveying, maintenance, and safety. But the UAV that is used for commercial use is a far cry from those that are in the standard home. An aerial mapping UAV will be much more technologically advanced than an at-home toy or hobbyist quadcopter, and much more expensive. 

Still, there’s no strict delineation between commercial UAVs and consumer UAVs for a very simple reason: UAVs have become more and more advanced. Just as there is a sliding spectrum of cameras, from a simple phone camera to a professional grade model, there’s also a sliding spectrum between commercial and consumer UAVs. Between the two are “prosumer” (professional consumer) UAVs that are very similar to commercial models, but still are not generally used for commercial use. Consumer-grade UAVs in use today may very well have been commercial-grade UAVs 10 years ago.

Here are the major differences between today’s commercial and consumer UAVs:

  • Cost. Let’s begin with the most obvious difference. A commercial UAV is very expensive, with the cheapest being a few thousand dollars. More commonly, a commercial UAV is going to cost tens of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, a prosumer UAV is likely to cost about a thousand dollars, while a recreational, consumer UAV may only cost a few hundred. Recreational UAVs are getting cheaper every day, but commercial UAVs are getting more technologically advanced, and thus more expensive.
  • Support. A commercial UAV is more likely to come with in-depth support. While many consumer or prosumer UAVs will still have customer support available, the customer support will be more along the lines of offering a refund if the UAV is defective. Meanwhile, commercial UAVs have support services that can help them with both technical and operational issues.
  • Durability. UAVs crash all the time. It’s just a fact. UAVs are extremely stable in most conditions, but during heavy winds, they simply may not be heavy enough to maneuver themselves. But when commercial models crash, they’re usually fine. Prosumer models are going to be very durable and will be able to take a lot of hard hits. Cheaper, consumer models could break on the first crash.
  • Sensor control and integration. Commercial UAVs allow for sensor control on a granular level and integration with precision solutions. Some UAVs are used for surveying, and others may be used for things like film production. Either way, they need to have the right level of sensor control. They have to be able to capture their exact location and maintain consistency.
  • Customization. Commercial UAVs can be used for many purposes, and consequently, must be built so that they can be altered and customized. Consumer UAVs are usually built for a single purpose. They may be built to carry a GoPro, or to carry small packages. Commercial UAVs are more commonly used for things such as surveying, but an aerial mapping UAV is likely to be a commercial UAV tailored for that purpose.

There are also some practical differences. Using a UAV for commercial flight requires different licenses and permits than using one for recreation. Consumer-grade UAVs are going to be billed as being good for consumer needs, whereas commercial UAVs are going to be billed for specific industrial applications. Consumer UAVs cannot be used for most of the things for which commercial UAVs can be used.

What Are the Similarities?

Of course, there are still similarities in commercial and consumer UAVs. In fact, at their core, they’re almost identical. Commercial UAVs have specifically been improved upon for commercial use. That means they’re better in virtually every way. They have longer battery life, they’re larger, they have more features, and they’re easier to control.

Both the consumer and commercial UAV markets are steadily growing. On the recreational side, people are enthusiastic about the opportunity to operate their own UAVs. On the commercial side, the applications for industrial UAVs are expanding by the day. For more information about the difference between consumer and commercial UAVs, contact the experts at Landpoint.

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How Does LiDAR Work, and What Are Its Limitations?

LiDAR is one of the leading options for surveying today, and it’s easy to see why. As a technology, it’s advanced, highly accurate, and fast. Compared to competing technology, it’s more effective and accurate a greater percentage of the time. To fully understand the benefits of LiDAR, you need to understand how LiDAR works, and why new Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) technology is helping it really take off.

What exactly is LiDAR? How does LiDAR work?

LiDAR releases very fast pulses of light towards a target and then measures the amount of time it takes for that light to travel back. As a LiDAR unit moves, usually on an aerial vehicle, it’s able to continuously scan an area using these small bursts of light to see how the terrain is changing around it. LiDAR units will take many points of data, which are then turned into a 3D mesh. 

For LiDAR to work effectively, its data must be analyzed. LiDAR data on its own is simply a number of disconnected points in space. But once processed and analyzed, this data will form a consolidated topographical map. 

LiDAR data is often gathered via sensors placed on vehicles such as UAVs (drones), helicopters, and planes. The method by which LiDAR data is captured does have some impact on its quality. Planes fly much higher than drones or helicopters, and consequently the data will not be as high resolution as it otherwise could be. However, that also means data can be captured much faster. 

LiDAR differs from the other major surveying method, which is photogrammetry. Under photogrammetry, photos of terrain are taken in quick succession, also often from an aerial vehicle. These photos are then analyzed to create a 3D model. Photogrammetry is not as accurate because it relies on 2D pictures to create a 3D model, but it is fast and cheap, and it does produce models that are usually fairly easy to understand; unlike LiDAR, these photos have color and realistic texture, so it is easy for the untrained eye to recognize things like fields, rivers, and roads.

  • Before-Oil & Gas Facility
    After-Oil & Gas Facility
    Laser Scan Oil & Gas Facility Model

What is a LiDAR drone?

LiDAR can be used on any aerial vehicle, but drones are becoming far more popular. A LiDAR drone is more maneuverable, able to capture higher resolution images, and can be deployed very quickly. Comparatively, other methods of LiDAR scanning require additional permits and licenses, and there is always the risk, no matter how minor, of something happening to a manned aerial crew.

What are the major benefits of LiDAR?

There’s a reason why this technology has seen such widespread adoption. The benefits include:

  • It’s fast. LiDAR captures quick bursts of light and can scan virtually as quickly as the aerial vehicle is able to move. Large swathes of land can be covered by LiDAR units.
  • It’s accurate. When paired with UAV, LiDAR scans can be conducted very low to the ground, taking high-resolution images of even very complex terrain. LiDAR scans can be taken in areas that would normally be too dangerous to survey, and drones are able to operate with precision to get the most accurate scans.
  • It’s in-depth. Photogrammetric imaging won’t show you what’s beneath brush or cloth, but LiDAR can. LiDAR can see through thin cloth and overgrown plants and leaves, thereby providing better topographical data.

However, there are few situations in which a LiDAR drone won’t be the optimal method for surveying.

Are there any limitations to LiDAR? 

Every technology has its limitations, even LiDAR. Though LiDAR has many benefits, there are also some downsides, which is why some projects choose to use photogrammetric imaging instead. A lack of color and texture means it can be difficult to interpret LiDAR data without training or additional pictures overlaid on the data.

LiDAR also requires in-house processing to get the most accurateresults. Because LiDAR data is very complex, outsourcing data analysis can lead to inaccurate data. Further, LiDAR is more expensive than other solutions like photogrammetry.

It can be beneficial to work with a company that offers both LiDAR and photogrammetric imaging. When used together, LiDAR and photogrammetric imaging can be extremely effective. 

Are you interested in learning more about the benefits of LiDAR? Do you want to know the differences between LiDAR and photogrammetry? Contact the experts at Landpoint.

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