Integrating lidar into drones for aerial surveying

22 October 2020
The DJI Zenmuse L1 is the company's first LiDAR integrated drone for aerial surveying to build accurate reality models. Source: DJI

Consumer drone giant DJI has introduced what it claims is the first integrated light detection and ranging (lidar) drone solution designed for industrial aerial surveying.

DJI introduced two surveying drones that are designed to enhance the efficiency, perspectives and accuracy of the data collected for precise aerial inspections and data collection missions. DJI said having lidar inside a drone allows industrial users to see, cover and understand geospatial context with high levels of accuracy and quality of the data collected from these tools.

Lidar technology is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges. These light pulses generate precise, 3D information about the shapes and surface characteristics.

In aerial surveying, lidar technology can build accurate reality models. In low light or heavy foliage areas, drone-based photogrammetry methods may not be enough. Lidar can provide quick, precise true-color point cloud models of complex structures.

DJI’s first lidar solution for aerial surveying, the Zenmuse L1 drone, integrates the Livox lidar module with 70° of field of view (FOV), a high-accuracy inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor and a 20 megapixel camera with a 1 in CMOS sensor and a mechanical shutter on a three-axis stabilized gimbal. The drone can generate true-color point cloud models in real-time or acquire a vast area of point cloud data in a single flight up to 2 km. The drone can operate in rain or foggy conditions while the lidar module’s active scanning method enables flights in low light conditions.

DJI said the Zenmuse L1 lidar solutions can penetrate vegetation canopies and foliage and emergency responders can garner situational awareness and capture forensic intelligence in real time for decision making. The drone can also be used for surveying in oil and gas, mining, infrastructure, telecommunications and power factories.

The second drone, the DJI Zenmuse P1, contains a 45 megapixel full frame low-noise sensor that offers views with interchangeable 24/35/50 nm fixed-focus lenses on a three-axis stabilized gimbal. DJI said the Zenmuse P1 is the largest DJI camera payload for geospatial data acquisition it has released.

The Zenmuse P1 lets users capture centimeter-accurate data combined with real-time position and orientation compensation technology. The drone allows photogrammetry professionals the ability to conduct missions requiring 2D orthomosaics, collect oblique images for 3D modeling with centimeter-level accuracy and acquire ultra-high resolution image data of vertical and slated surfaces from a safe distance.

DJI said this could be used for surveying detailed reconstructions, geological surveys, heritage site conservation, hydraulic engineering and more.

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