Lidar is a method for determining variable distance by targeting an object with a laser and measuring the time for the reflected light to return to the receiver. Lidar can also be used to make digital 3-D representations of areas on the earth’s surface and ocean bottom, due to differences in laser return times, and by varying laser wavelengths. It has terrestrial, airborne, and mobile applications.

Lidar is commonly used to make high-resolution maps, with applications in surveying, geodesy, geomatics, archaeology, geography, geology, geomorphology, seismology, forestry, atmospheric physics, laser guidance, airborne laser swath mapping (ALSM), and laser altimetry. The technology is also used in control and navigation for some autonomous cars.

Lidar uses ultraviolet, visible, or near infrared light to image objects. It can target a wide range of materials, including non-metallic objects, rocks, rain, chemical compounds, aerosols, clouds and even single molecules. A narrow laser beam can map physical features with very high resolutions.

LiDAR Overview