Going Mobile with LiDAR

Updated: Sep 12, 2018

Mobile LiDAR sensors are used in situations where large areas need to be mapped with high accuracy. Mobile mapping LiDAR systems contain many of the same components as air-borne LiDAR systems, but there are some key differences.


These systems are mounted on the back of a vehicle. The laser scanner rotates 360 degrees continuously during operation, rather than oscillating back and forth. The systems can contain a GPS antenna or two, as well as more than one laser. Also, most mobile LiDAR systems contain a DMI that provides additional velocity information.


These sensors are the newest type of LiDAR sensors and typically operate at 1,550 nm. They can operate on a variety of ground-based platforms — not just an SUV, truck, or van, but also a rail car, boat, or ATV. Mobile sensors provide higher accuracy than airborne sensors. The distance from the target may be as little as a few meters or up to about 200 meters, and the typical point densities are between 1,000 and 4,000 points per meter.


You’ll find that planning a mobile LiDAR collection is similar to conducting an airborne corridor collection. One key difference is that you’ll have to consider traffic and safety conditions while driving along a given transportation corridor. You might even need a moving barricade. You’ll also need to think about collecting additional ground check points because you’re typically seeking much higher-accuracy data, ranging from 1 to 3 centimeters.


The base station control for mobile LiDAR in most cases is significantly more rigorous than that for airborne LiDAR. The accuracy requirements are based on engineering requirements, and to achieve these parameters you need a lot more control. Typically, base stations are set at the ends of the project corridor but no further than 10 km from the sensor at any given time. For longer projects, you’ll need several base stations set up along the project corridor.


Most mobile mapping LiDAR systems include two to four cameras that capture up to three frames per second. By the time you’re finished, your system will have collected billions of points and thousands of images. With that much data, the detail of the information is exceptional.



Young, James. LiDAR for Dummies. Hoboken: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2011.



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