A Guide to Drone LiDAR Mapping

M350 with LiDAR  


What is LiDAR mapping?

LiDAR mapping is a surveying technique that uses remote sensing technology to gather data, specifically elevation data, about a plot of land. A LiDAR module sends out thousands or even hundreds of thousands of laser light points per second, each of which captures a data point that will be compiled into a final composite pound cloud.

In the specific instance of drone LiDAR mapping, the LiDAR module is mounted to an unmanned aircraft and carried over the land area being surveyed for data collection. Drone LiDAR mapping also leverages inertial measurement units (IMU) and global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receivers to improve the accuracy of data collection.

The four components of a drone lidar mapping system >

Data from the flight mission is collected and compiled via LiDAR software to create the aforementioned point cloud. The applications for that point cloud are virtually unlimited. Companies may use lidar data to:

  • Assess a land parcel for future construction projects.
  • Understand the altitude and terrain of a heavily wooded area without having to use more cumbersome methods.
  • Create maps of shorelines and other natural features.

The drone lidar mapping process >  

What’s the difference between lidar mapping and photogrammetry?

LiDAR and photogrammetry are both excellent drone surveying methods, each offering distinct advantages. The primary difference between the two is the method to which the 3D points are calculated. Photogrammetry indirectly generates 3D points when images are able to match patterns and triangulate the position on the ground from those images. LiDAR creates a composite, 3D point cloud based on direct measurement of distances between the LiDAR and the ground. 

There are other, nuanced differences between LiDAR and photogrammetry, such as application, cost, and accuracy. Understanding these differences—and your own needs—is key to choosing the right method for your project.

The differences between drone lidar and photogrammetry > 

How much does a lidar drone cost?

Drone LiDAR mapping technology is available at a wide range of price points. The size and payload capacity of the drone, the accuracy of the IMU, and a variety of other factors contribute to the final price tag of your drone lidar system.

Typical pricing on a drone LiDAR has a wide range from $12,430 for the Zenmuse L2, to $33k for the RESEPI Hesai XT-32.  Both have strong LiDAR sensors themselves, a high quality camera, and an RTK GNSS system.  One important difference is the IMU accuracy.  There is a substantial difference in accuracy levels of the IMU, which drives some of that cost.  

The price range on a lidar drone is also affected by any additional accessories you may purchase. The DJI Matrice 350 RTK, a popular lidar drone, costs $11,729 on its own. You may also need a base station, such as the Emlid Reach RS2+.

See a complete price guide for drone lidar systems > 

Drone lidar mapping technology from E38 Survey Solutions

E38 Survey Solutions is proud to offer the best drone lidar equipment on the market. From lidar-equipped drones to military-grade IMUs and beyond, we can help you build the right drone lidar mapping system based on your needs and your budget, from the most reputable brands in the business, such as DJI, Inertial Labs, and EMLID.

In addition, our US-based customer service team is easy to reach during business hours to answer questions, help with troubleshooting, and more. You can count on us to help you get the most out of your drone lidar investment, long after your purchase is complete.

See drone lidar equipment >