EARTH: Mobile Mapping with LIDAR Hits the Road

on April 26, 2012 11:17 AM EDT

A new generation of lidar, or Light Detection and Ranging technology, is bringing the laser-based survey method down to Earth. The new technology involves mounting instruments atop cars, boats and even backpacks. These new mobile mapping systems will give geoscientists a whole new way to map and study the world.

Traditional lidar uses satellites and airplanes to map the surface of the Earth below, whereas mobile mapping lidar scans from ground level. However, the real difference between the two methods lies in resolution and perspective. Most airborne scans have a resolution of a half-meter, whereas terrestrial scans are on the order of centimeters and can produce even better high-resolution 3-D datasets. Other benefits to mobile mapping include that it is much more cost-effective than other highway survey methods and that it leaves a much smaller environmental footprint than an airplane. How else is mobile mapping lidar changing the way geoscientists map, and how soon until this new technology is available to everyone? Learn more at http://www.earthmagazine.org/article/mobile-mapping-lidar-hits-road.

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Read this story and more in the May issue of EARTH Magazine, available online now at http://www.earthmagazine.org/. Uncover Kilauea's explosive past and potential future; discover the iridescent Microraptor; and unearth evidence of higher life forms beneath the seafloor all in this month's issue of EARTH.

Source: American Geological Institute

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