The Differences between Mobile Laser Scanning and Terrestrial Laser Scanning

With point cloud technology, geospatial data collection and analytics growing popular day by day, it has become essential for individuals and businesses to learn more about mobile laser scanning and terrestrial laser scanning. Increasingly, they are doing exactly that, with many organisations starting to develop processes based on these two technologies for capturing accurate geospatial data. Over time, this trend will only continue.

Mobile laser scanning and terrestrial laser scanning play a critical role in acquiring data about any specific object placed on the earth’s surface, however, to make them work for your organisation effectively, it’s important that you know exactly what they stand for and how they’re different from each other. In this blog post, we look at the crucial differences between mobile laser scanning and terrestrial laser scanning.

What Is Mobile Laser Scanning?

Mobile Laser Scanning, or MLS, is an emerging data point collecting method that’s used for surveying numerous infrastructure corridors, such as railways and roads. Usually, the traditional rail and road surveying process takes a lot of time, interrupts the day-to-day traffic activities, and requires many on-site workers. The mobile laser scanning process can reduce this time duration and operational budget by a significant margin and produce 100% accurate results without any hassle.

In this method, the geospatial data about any object is collected with the help of a laser placed on a mobile vehicle, which is equipped with cameras, LiDAR and other remote sensors. This mobile vehicle can be a train, car, truck or any crewless aerial vehicle. 

Mobile laser scanning comes in handy in emergency response situations to analyse ground conditions quickly, as well for mapping projects like Street View and Google Maps. 

What Is Terrestrial Laser Scanning?

terrestrial laser scanning

Terrestrial laser scanning is a surface-based active imaging method that acquires precise 3D point clouds of any object using laser range finding. Today, the applications of terrestrial laser scanning are on the rise, including its usage in the documentation of industrial plants, road networks, recording of cultural heritage sites and analysis of tree defoliation. 

With this method, the terrestrial laser or contact-free measuring device is deployed on rail cars or road vehicles for collecting data points, which are given X, Y, Z coordinates for hassle-free data analysis.

Mobile Laser Scanning versus Terrestrial Laser Scanning

Both MLS and TLS seem similar at first, but as you learn more about them, you can easily identify the key differences. These include:

  • MLS is always moving, while TLS is static in nature. This makes TLS comparatively easier to position than MLS.
  • Mobile laser scanning shows a lower point density compared to terrestrial laser scanning when acquiring positioning data of any object on the earth’s surface. TLS is also more uniform than MLS. 
  • Mobile laser scanning systems can typically produce high-quality point clouds at comparatively lower densities than TLS systems.
  • The TLS system cannot scan some objects or areas due to its limited accessibility. The MLS system can prove to be a great asset in such areas and provide you with more accurate results. 

As we can see, mobile laser scanning and terrestrial laser scanning have significant differences in application, but they both play a crucial role in capturing accurate geospatial positioning and imaging data from the earth’s surface. It’s vital to know these differences so that you can use either MLS or TLS according to your organisation’s needs.

If you’re a business that uses either or both of these technologies, it’s important to find a solution that allows you to use them effectively. TopoDOT presents businesses with the ability to use MLS and TLS for their point cloud data needs.

Categories: Technology


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