What is LiDAR technology?

What is LiDAR technology?

LiDAR technology has been around for some time now, and today, it is widely used, for example, in autonomous cars. The latest iPhone models - iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone Pro Max - are using it as well. If you have one of these two models, you might have noticed a black dot near the camera lens - this is the LiDAR sensor. But what is LiDAR? How does it work and is it worth it? The present article is an introduction to LiDAR technology, so if you want to learn what it is about, then keep reading!

What is LiDAR?

LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging, and is a technology used for remote sensing (determining the distance) of an object on the Earth’s surface. This method’s most frequent applications include high-resolution mapping and 3D scanning, especially regarding geology, geography, geomorphology, seismology, surveying, geodesy, geomatics, atmospheric physics, archaeology, and laser guidance, airborne laser swath mapping (ALSM), laser altimetry.

How does LiDAR work?

As you might have guessed, LiDAR uses light. The principle is simple: a pulsed laser ray is projected on an object, and the time for the reflected light to return to the receiver is measured. This instrument comprises a laser, a scanner, and a GPS receiver.

So what is the difference between LiDAR and RADAR? Radar stands for Radio Detection and Ranging and uses radio waves. Pulsed or continued radio waves are projected on an object that reflects them, making it possible to locate and define its speed. Although the two methods have the same purposes and look similar, they are not the same: the most significant difference is the wavelength. While the wavelength of RADAR is between 3mm and 30cm, the one of LiDAR is in the micrometer range. A standard RADAR resolution is between a few meters and 100 meters, perfect for detecting objects at long distances. However, the size of the antenna limits the lateral resolution.

Lidar technology
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How accurate is LiDAR?

As noted above, LiDAR’s wavelengths are lower than that of RADAR, making it more suitable for detecting smaller objects with better precision (more details). In general, studies tell us that airborne LiDAR technology is very accurate.

Airborne and terrestrial are the two types of LiDAR technology - the first is installed on flying technologies (helicopters, drones), and the latter is installed on vehicles or tripods.

How does LiDAR work on iPhone?

iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max have LiDAR camera technology - this was first tested in iPad Pro. As mentioned above, this means that pulsed rays are projected on an object, whether only one ray is projected with other cameras. However, we’re talking about infrared dots, so this is invisible to the human eye - in addition, the sensors work within a range of 5 meters. A significant advantage of integrating LiDAR is that it adds more depth to the photos.

LiDAR is especially useful for taking photos in low-light environments - not only when it comes to details, but it is also faster. With the Measure app, you can also see objects' exact distances and measurements more accurately than on older iPhones.

Other third-party apps offer cool features thanks to the LiDAR integration, such as creating 3D models of the environment and for augmented reality purposes. 

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