Defining the true cost behind implementing lidar systems into your business.
The LiDAR drone market is expected to double in size to $392 million over the next four years, with a CAGR of 24.2% from 2020-2025 (Markets and Markets, 2020). The easing of governmental regulations on civilian commercial drone applications has propelled the North American market to account for the largest market share for LiDAR drone technology. With this growth, it is clear that the technology is advancing and that businesses are seeing the value in LiDAR.
If you are still considering implementing lidar into your business workflow, there can be many variables to consider. Here at Candrone, we are equipped with the expertise to help you navigate all the points and their densities. This article will not detail LiDAR sensors' nuances such as range, points per m2 or field of view as they can create confusion at first glance. Instead, this article aims to summarize the actual cost of getting LiDAR up and running in your business.
Figure 2: Digital elevation model highlighting the bare earth along the corridor.
To understand the real cost (and benefit) of implementing LiDAR into your business, it's essential to factor in all the resources necessary. Firstly, having the right tool for the job is critical. An robust, entry-level LiDAR system comes in around $23,000 (USD). A drone to go with it comes in at $10,000-16,000. Additional costs include accessories for your drone, batteries, a base station, and a GPS rover which can add $10,000 to the total. Often forgotten out of the equation is insurance. On a $23,000 LiDAR system, expect to spend a minimum of $2000 a year for equipment insurance.
Another significant component is understanding the human resources involved. You will need someone with a drone piloting license to acquire the data. An “advanced drone license” (for our canadian readers) costs around $550 (including study materials and test fees), while the FAA commercial drone pilot test (for those in the US) is about $200 and the time it takes to prep for these pilot exams is about a week (15-30 hours). Only needing one person to acquire the data is incredible, but keep in mind who will be processing the LiDAR data. If you have someone on your team who knows AutoCAD, they will take on such a task with 4-6 hours of software training. Lastly, LiDAR processing software can be upwards of $20,000, but luckily you could start with open-source software for free. For our calculations, choosing a robust mid-range data processing option will help give us good results with ease, coming in around $8,000.
With all of these variables considered, implementing LiDAR into your workflow will cost around $54,000-62,000 USD for midrange equipment.
With the additional safety benefits of collecting your data from a distance and the increased density of data acquired from LiDAR, you can start to see the revolutionary change LiDAR drones bring. To contrast the cost of LiDAR, consider the cost of traditional methods on a construction development project. Using traditional methods, a building project of 1 km2 would require a site survey crew to survey 100-300 points manually. Including equipment and a surveyors time, a land survey would cost roughly $4000-$12,000 per km2 (Home Advisor, 2020). The volume of site surveys needed to plan construction projects, coupled with the level of accuracy required to precisely plan builds, makes for a complex task that is continuously evolving. Using LiDAR as a tool in the planning stages can assure you have an accurate elevation model from the get-go. With an entry-level lidar solution, you can survey a 1 km2 area, process your data, and create tangible outputs all within a day's work. You can see now that implementing LiDAR will pay for itself after about 5-8 projects.
If perhaps $54,000 - 62,000 is too much upfront for your business, we understand and have rental options here at Candrone to help you get the most out of the technology for a fraction of the cost. As a full-service drone technology company, we have provided consulting for many businesses and organizations looking to adopt LiDAR drones into their portfolio. To learn more, reach out to one of our LiDAR experts at firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 1-888-461-5742.
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