Light detection and ranging is a technological system that works on the principle of reflection and bouncing back light to get information on the surrounding objects, like mapping the earth’s surface and collecting meteorological data. It was first discovered in 1961 and entered the commercial and consumer market in the 1980s. Below are the types, manufacturers, and differences between LIDAR, sonar, and radar.

Types of LIDAR


Mobile LIDAR is used in moving and self-driven cars and comprises a GPS, inertial navigation system, a sensor, and a few cameras. It is placed on top of a moving vehicle to produce data punts which are processed to determine obstacles and conditions of roads and rail tracks. In self-driven cars, it is used to determine the presence of pedestrians and other vehicles.


This type of LIDAR is either mounted on a moving vehicle or in a fixed location. It is mainly used in applications that require a detailed ground survey or a closer view of objects. It is common in construction, self-driven cars, surveying, and mapping, among others.


Topographic LiDAR uses near-infrared laser beams to scan any land and provide estimates of specific characteristics used to map the land. It is used in forestry, infrastructure, ecology, and urban planning.

LiDAR sensors

A LiDAR sensor has a laser, a scanner, and a specialized GPS. The laser sends and transmits laser beam pulses while the scanner records the time delay between the outgoing laser beam and the reflection of the laser beam back to the sensor. The GPS is used to track down the system’s location carrying the LiDAR sensor. The different times and wavelengths collected are used to make a 3D presentation and virtually map surface characteristics and features.

LiDAR vs sonar vs Radar

LiDAR, radar, and sonar are remote sensing technologies used by different professionals to collect and analyze data. However, they are differentiated by their mediums to transmit signals and how they analyze the time taken. LiDAR transmits light pulses while radar emits radio waves, and sonar sends sound waves and uses the Geiger-mode LiDAR technology to collect elevation data points.

LiDAR is commonly used in measuring atmospheric currents and densities. Radar can operate during the night and under cloudy weather conditions and has a longer operating distance making it slow in returning data. Sonar is used to detect underwater objects and is mainly affected by variations in sound speed depending on the type of water.

Lidar manufacturers

LiDAR technology is essential in the automotive sector. The best manufacturer is determined by producing a unique design due to the rapidly growing demand. The most common manufacturers are Hexagon in Sweden, Velodyne in the U.S., SICK in Germany, Topcon Positioning systems in California, and REIGL in Australia.

LiDAR has become beneficial today because it is fast and accurate, collects efficient data within a short period, and analyses it. LiDAR is more common in the automotive sectors, especially in self-driven cars and robots, as it is accurate and fast. Thus, it plays a crucial role in ensuring proper navigation.

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