What Is Laser Scanning and How Can It Be Used?

Laser scanning is a well-known procedure to accurately measure and collect data about objects, surfaces, buildings and environments. Experts use laser scanners to execute this procedure and develop 3D maps and models that assist in the construction industry. 

what is laser scanning

The history of laser scanning dates back to the 1960s.  Initially, equipment was basic, consisting of cameras, projectors and lights that took a lot of time to process data. Then, in 1985, these simple scanners were replaced with high-quality equipment that used white light and shadowing to collect data relating to objects and surfaces.   

How Does Laser Scanning Work?

Today, the process of laser scanning has entirely transformed. Now light beams are used to more accurately capture the point clouds of buildings, surfaces or objects. Present-day laser scanning procedures use lasers, sensors, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Inertial Measurement Units (IMU), receiver electronics and photodetectors. 

To collect the data, experts throw light waves at the target object and calculate their size and distance from a given point based on the time taken by these light waves to hit them and then return to the sensor. This is known as the “time of flight” measurement. 

Applications of Laser Scanning

Laser scanning is used in many high-value government-backed and privately funded projects such as national defence and road surveying. Some of its other well-known applications are listed below. 

Spatial Scanning

Usually, the spatial scanning process is time-consuming and one small mistake could affect the entire project. Laser scanners not only reduce the time taken in the plotting and spatial scanning but also improve the planning process and considerably cut down the number of errors during the data collection. Because of the value laser scanners add to spatial scanning, researchers use them for mobile mapping, surveying, the scanning buildings — and their interiors. 

Road Surveying and Traffic Construction Analysis

Developing highways is one of the most challenging tasks for authorities as they cannot stop the traffic for long — but cannot delay construction work either. Laser scanners help reduce turnaround time during road construction — without affecting the ongoing traffic.  

Laser scanners can reduce road surveying and traffic construction analysis from weeks to a matter of hours. The laser scanning process is fully automated and requires only a few people to manage equipment and processes such as data collection, analysis, and CAD model development — reducing the required workforce. 

Urban Topography 

Urban topography is an interdisciplinary study of towns — their forms, layouts, architectural history, geography, etc. — for town planning. This is a critical process as it requires regular, accurate data collection by urban planners who use laser scanners to collect and process data before beginning development work. 

Laser scanning can also be applied to civil surveying, reverse engineering, mining, and archaeological projects. It plays an important part in most civil engineering related projects and helps governments and private authorities accomplish tasks on time and with 100% accuracy.

Is your organisation involved in civil engineering or a similar activity? If so, why not consider using TopoDOT to develop high-quality 3D maps and models from your laser scanner collected data. To find out more about TopoDOT, contact our experts and get a free demo.

Categories: Technology


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