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Post-processing Lidar data no longer the norm

28 April 2023

The Dutch startup Aerial Precision recently demonstrated its first two sensors with integrated artificial intelligence software. Over the past few years, the company’s innovation efforts have resulted in products that make Lidar cheaper and easier to use.

For example, thanks to real-time point cloud registration, the 3D data is ready as soon as scanning is completed. Two investors – Dutch and Belgian – came on board. There are plans to rapidly add more functionalities.

“Based on our ambition to dramatically improve the way information is extracted from point clouds, in 2018 we founded Aerial Precision and started to design artificial intelligence-driven Lidar systems. These can be mounted on commercial drones, mobile vehicles or operated as handheld devices by humans or robots. We want to offer a better option than photogrammetry: much faster, easier and cheaper,” said Vicente Payo-Ollero, CEO and founder, to clarify the company’s goal.

With his background in electronics engineering and specialized in sensor fusion, guidance, navigation and control of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs or ‘drones’), Payo-Ollero has been active in the development of high-end drone systems, using photogrammetry and Lidar, all around the world. This includes for the production of the seventh season of Game of Thrones, the latest Mission Impossible movie and numerous geophysical surveys.

“There is an important need to generate 3D maps, but the way they are produced is inefficient. So, I started to focus on making a next-generation Lidar system that can be used with any iOS device and generates point clouds within minutes,” he continued. “There will still be situations in which photogrammetry is the best solution, but in many cases our sensors with built-in artificial intelligence (AI) will be the smarter choice.

Visitors to a recent demo day at the airfield saw how the sensor was affixed to the mount – in this case a tripod – before a hangar of aeroplanes and helicopters was scanned by walking up and down once. Then it was connected to an Apple tablet and the 3D colour point cloud was generated within minutes so that the model could be used for measuring purposes.

The same principle was applied for mapping DronePort itself. The lightweight sensor was clicked under a commercially available drone: a DJI M300. No post-processing was necessary, because the processing is done in real time as the Lidar data is collected. “Of course, you still have to ask the authorities for permission to use the drone, but the promise of offering a real, fast alternative is solid,” commented Payo-Ollero. “You plan the flight in advance on your tablet, you go to the site, you conduct the flight and by the time you get inside again, the information is there.”

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Source: gim-international

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