What Is a Point Cloud and How Is It Used?

Government agencies, construction companies, and countless other industries rely on photogrammetry and LiDAR to form highly detailed, accurate 3D maps and models. But how does the data obtained through images or laser scanning transition into these highly detailed models? The bridge between them is called a point cloud, and to help you understand how they work, we’re sharing an in-depth look at what a point cloud is and how it is used.

 

LiDAR-point-cloud

What Is a Point Cloud?

A point cloud is a collection of individual data points in a three-dimensional plane with each point having a set coordinate on the X, Y, and Z axis. When each point is placed together, it creates a three dimensional map or model. For example, if the data compiled to create the point cloud is taken from a neighborhood, it will show the location of each building, tree, and power line, along with its elevation relative to the ground. Depending on the data gathered and how dense the point cloud is, the more details and specific types of terrain and structures you’ll see.

How Are Point Clouds Created?

Point clouds are generally created in one of two ways, LiDAR and photogrammetry, and are georeferenced for accuracy.

LiDAR

Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, is a remote sensing method that scans an area with a laser and then measures the light’s reflection and range from the earth’s surface. This data is cross-referenced with GPS and inertial measurement units and each pulse of the scanner creates a data point. Because laser scanners can have a scan speed of well over a million points per second, LiDAR is the most accurate, detailed, and precise way to create a point cloud.

Photogrammetry

Photogrammetry creates measurements using a series of images. The photographs are taken from different locations, and points are triangulated then plotted on the three dimensional space. Drones can take thousands of pictures of an area from different angles and analysts can process the images together to develop a point cloud, filling minimal gaps with surface reconstruction.

What Are Point Clouds Used For?

Once the data is completed and a point cloud is available, they can be used in a variety of ways, including creating topographic maps of an area or digital elevation models for undeveloped land. However, they can also be directly rendered, so they are converted into polygon or triangle mesh models or computer aided design (CAD) models which can be used to create three dimensional models of a city, construction site, or mining site.

Why Use Point Clouds for Modeling and Mapping?

Construction companies, civil engineers, and other professions and industries rely on point cloud modeling because it offers three key benefits:

  • Efficiency: Once you have the point cloud, you can upload it into your preferred software platform to get the dataset or models you need. Instead of spending hours of time processing data, you can let the software do the work for you.
  • Accuracy: Both LiDAR and photogrammetry are incredibly precise and accurate ways of collecting data.
  • Cost effective: Our LiDAR equipped drones can scan up to 700 acres per day, per team to collect the data you need. This can not only cut down on labor costs associated with data collection, it can help you plan a more accurate budget and avoid expenses.

Schedule a Free Consultation for Drone Services Today

FlyGuys has a national network of licensed drone pilots to provide LiDAR scanning and drone services. Our data collection services aid in land development, construction projects, forest and agriculture management, and so much more. To schedule a free consultation and learn more about our services, reach out to us today at 1-888-376-6965 or fill out the form below to get started.