How Does the LiDAR Sensor Work?


Many people have an iPhone but don’t know the LiDAR sensor present in it. Well, it offers quite great features that can be useful. It is basically a light detected and ranging which is one kind of remote sensing way. It can help to measure the accurate distance for the object on the surface of the earth. This concept is not new but it gained more popularity after it appeared in the iPhone and hence some are even curious to know how it works. But before that, it is always better to be a little aware of the history associated with it.

What exactly is LiDAR?

LiDAR is not a new technology; it was first used in the year 1960 when the concept of laser scanners was just being mounted to the planes. However, it got popular after a long time, especially when the GPS was introduced. It could contribute to calculating the measurements of the geospatial accurately. Now its scope is not just restricted to GPS but many other fields as well.

The instrument of Lidar:

The instrument of LiDAR at the principal level consists of a scanner, a laser, and even the specialized GPS receiver. To take some common platforms, well helicopters and Airplanes need the lidar data over the board area. There are two types of Lidar: bathymetric and topographic.

  • Bathymetric Lidar: It makes the use of green light that is water penetrating so that the seafloor could be measured. It is also used for riverbed elevations.
  • Topographic lidar: This type is more commonly used for mapping the land. In this, near-infrared is used for the same.

Exploring more of the LiDAR Technology:

As per the American Geoscience Institute, the pulsed laser is being used in LiDar so that the valuable distance of the object can be calculated from the surface of the earth. Such types of pulses if put together with the information that has been gathered using the airborne system, well the accurate 3D data gets created. It shows the surface of the earth and the details of the target object.

The components of a LiDAR instrument

There are three main components of a LiDAR instrument as stated above which are the laser, scanner, and GPS receiver. Other elements play a crucial role in collecting the data and even analyzing the same. The optics and Photodetector are part of it.

Understand the working of LiDAR?

LiDAR works on the very basic principle which is to throw the light of the laser at a certain object on the surface of the earth. The calculation of the time that it takes is done when it is trying to return to the source of the LiDAR. At the speed at which the light travels, the exact distance is measured using the LiDAR and this of course is quite fast.


Lidar Sensors are quite important for different platforms. Ideally, the overall system of LiDAR lets the experts and even the mapping scientists know more about the manmade and natural environment with much accuracy and better flexibility.

Zayd Dana
the authorZayd Dana