From the purely scientific (ozone-column mapping, imaging hydrometeors in clouds) to commercial (on-board detection of clear air turbulence, CAT), my exposure to LIDAR applications has been primarily atmospheric.
Of course, other applications of LIDAR technology exist, and one of these is Digital Terrain Mapping (DTM).
Terra Remote Sensing Inc. is a leader in LIDAR-based DTM. Particularly impressive is their ability to perform surface DTM in areas of dense vegetation. As I learned at a very recent meeting of the Ontario Association of Remote Sensing (OARS), Terra has already found a number of very practical applications for LIDAR-based DTM.
Some additional applications that come to mind are:
- DTM of urban canopies for atmospheric experiments – Terra has already mapped buildings for various purposes. The same approach could be used to better ground (sorry 😉 atmospheric experiments. For example, the boundary-layer modeling that was conducted for Joint Urban 2003 (JU03) employed a digitization of Oklahoma City. A LIDAR-based DTM would’ve made this an even-more realistic effort.
- Monitoring the progress of Global Change in the Arctic – In addition to LIDAR-based DTM, Terra is also having some success characterizing surfaces based on LIDAR intensity measurements. Because open water and a glacier would be expected to have different DTM and intensity characteristics, Terra should also be able to monitor Global Change as nunataks are progressively transformed into traditional islands (land isolated and surrounded by open water). With the Arctic as a bellwether for Global Change, it’s not surprising that the nunatak-to-island transformation is getting attention.
Although my additional examples are (once again) atmospheric in nature, as Terra is demonstrating, there are numerous applications for LIDAR-based technologies.