How drone LiDAR mapping works

Drone LiDAR mapping has many valuable applications for a wide variety of industries. Because of the versatility of drone LiDAR data, the drone LiDAR mapping process may differ slightly each time. In general, however, the process can be broken into four primary steps: flight, processing, quality checks, and export.

LiDAR drone flight

The drone flight is the first step of the drone lidar mapping process. Most mapping drones, including the DJI M300 RTK and DJI M350 RTK, allow for the flight to be programmed beforehand, so the operator can simply press “go” and let the drone fly its planned mission. The drone’s progress can be monitored and, if necessary, controlled with DJI Pilot 2, using either a smartphone or a DJI controller.

As the mapping drone flies, the LiDAR module sends thousands of laser pulses every second, gathering precise data that will later be processed to create a final surveying product. This data collection is fully automated and requires no interference from an operator or pilot during flight.

Drone LiDAR data processing

Once data has been collected and the drone has returned to earth, the next step to drone lidar mapping is to process that data. Data from the LiDAR module, the inertial measurement unit (IMU), and the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) are combined to create a colorized point cloud. The RESEPI LiDAR use PCMaster, a one-click data processing software program from Inertial Labs.  The Zenmuse L2 used DJI Terra.

The end result of this step is an LAS file, which is a generic file type for LiDAR point clouds. LAS files are compatible with many different end-use softwares.

Quality checks

In many cases, drone mapping and surveying projects will use check points to verify the data quality. Once a LiDAR point cloud has been generated, it’s good practice to review a few of those check shots to verify that they’re within the necessary tolerances for the final product. This step is critical for ensuring data accuracy before investing time and effort into creating a final product.


Once the LAS file has been created and reviewed for quality, there are many possibilities for next steps, depending on the industry and the application of the final product. There are many different software programs, such as Trimble Business Center and specialized programs for industries such as construction, that can receive and process the data as needed.  E38 offers BricsCAD with or without the SurveyTools module.  

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