Lidar, an acronym for light detection and ranging, involves scanning objects and areas with lasers to produce digital, three-dimensional, representations of those surfaces. A lidar sensor emits laser pulses and measures the time each pulse takes to bounce off a surface and return to the sensor. Each return is stored and becomes one of billions of data points used to create a digital visualization of the scanned target. Lidar sensors are incredibly mobile, and can be operated from handheld devices, vehicles, and aircraft to produce digital models that are rich in metadata.
The versatility of these sensors and the accuracy of the results has allowed lidar to become integral to a variety of different industries. Digital models act as a snapshot of the real-world, and can inform construction projects, track environmental change, guide autonomous vehicles, reveal archeological wonders, and document infrastructure, among many other uses.