How to Get LIDAR Data That Works for Your Company

Posted by Ashley Little on November 19, 2019

lidar data

As LIDAR technology becomes more affordable, an increasing number of utility companies are using it to collect asset data.

LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) uses many thousands of laser light pulses per second to measure distances (single point or multiple points) with extreme precision. The collected data generates 3D point-cloud images that are used to measure distances.

Here are two examples:

1. In the field or office, you can measure the distance between a power distribution line and a close tree limb to see if vegetation management is immediately required.

2. You can measure the distance on a utility pole between attachments to confirm proper separation is met based on pole owner guidelines and mandated safety requirements.

LIDAR data is extremely accurate and high-end systems can collect data quickly compared with more traditional forms of measurement.

When a company decides to use LIDAR, there is also another decision to make. Which method of LIDAR data collection best meets the company's needs? There are several ways to collect LIDAR data.

Alden’s LIDAR expert, John McConnell, says that when a client expresses interest in using LIDAR on a utility data collection project, his first asks, “What is your mission?” Knowing the end goal allows for a specific method of LIDAR data collection to be chosen or whether a combination of methods should be used.

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Handheld LIDAR

The simplest way to collect LIDAR data is with a handheld device called a hypsometer. It can be used to measure the heights of a pole and its attachments, with the LIDAR data typically supplemented by digital photographs. On average, an experienced field technician with a hypsometer can gather data on more than 75+ poles per day, assuming reasonable access to the poles.

If the total number of poles for measurement isn’t too large or the timetable for getting the data isn’t too tight, this form of LIDAR may be ideal.

Vehicle-Mounted LIDAR

When poles can be accessed from the roadway (approximately 150 feet or less from a vehicle) and typically exceed more than 20 miles of data collection, it might be feasible to consider a vehicle-mounted LIDAR system. Vehicle-mounted LIDAR systems capture 100,000 – 1,000,000+ data points per second, augmented by a high-resolution camera system.

In good weather, this highly efficient setup can collect data from more than 5,000 poles per day.

Going Airborne

When the sheer number of assets or the difficulty of the terrain involved makes other methods of LIDAR data collection impractical, airborne LIDAR offers a solution – in fact, several solutions.

LIDAR equipment may be mounted on:

  • Drone aircraft
  • Helicopters
  • Fixed-wing aircraft

Although the use of fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters increases cost, such aircraft mounted with LIDAR can perform mass data collection quickly, gathering information on thousands of assets. Temperature and humidity information can be easily collected along with asset height measurements and vegetation mapping for miles of utility poles and distribution line on a single flight.

The Right Combination

LIDAR data collection is not necessarily an either/or proposition. It can be used in combination with traditional forms of data collection, such as boots on the ground, and multiple methods of LIDAR collection can be employed on a single project.

For example, Alden worked with a client that needed data collection for 35,000+ poles covering over 1,000 miles. Vehicle-mounted LIDAR could be used for roughly 80 percent of the poles accessible from the ground. The remaining 20 percent required a different method – either handheld collection, drone collection, or a combination, depending on the geographic challenges involved. Once the mission has been defined, best practice data collection options can be defined.

Put Your Data to Work - Make Intelligent, Data-Driven Decisions

LIDAR can supply a utility or communications company with large amounts of useful data. The key to getting the most out of that detailed information is a data management system, such as our Alden One® platform.

Alden One®, the nationally recognized asset management platform for joint use, is a valuable tool for organizing LIDAR data and putting it to maximum use. Business intelligence dashboards offer visibility to the data for each stakeholder, making it easy to categorize, prioritize, summarize, track, and share. The platform also helps to ensure timely attention to the most pressing needs, as revealed by the data.

Data collection isn't one size fits all. We get it. Alden customizes utility data collection services to individual clients' needs and has the best system available for data asset management. If you are interested in learning more about our services and products, click below.

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