The basic tools in the surveyor’s kit continue to be total stations and positioning, but laser scanning and imaging systems are making inroads. Market demand is widely viewed as a driver.
With tax reform in place at the beginning of 2018, the Trump Administration was talking up infrastructure – the first area identified for investment in the 2016 inauguration speech. While debate had not even begun on what and how infrastructure improvements would be made, the areas where laser scanning tools are bound to be applied in an era of infrastructure development are already showing some movement. Transportation was marked as a growth area for laser scanning by 45 percent of surveyors responding to POB’s “2016-2017 Laser Scanning Surveying Trends” study. This was up from 31 percent the prior year. Energy and utilities also saw an increase to 33 percent vs. 25 percent in the 2016 study.
There is a strong, measured approach to unmanned aerial vehicles. POB began asking about UAV use and plans to add UAVs as the barriers to entry were being lowered, and the answers continue to indicate steady interest. Anecdotally, land surveyors still raise questions about using UAVs profitably. As UAV technology and experience move forward – especially in the area of UAV-mounted laser tools – those numbers could continue to grow. For now, there is no mad dash to follow a fad. Judging by how busy manufacturers are and the companies providing training for unmanned pilot certificates, the hardware numbers in these studies may indicate the tip of a very large iceberg.
Reinforcing both the infrastructure and airborne trends, both terrestrial mobile and aerial LiDAR are seeing significant growth. Here are some selected results from the current study, conducted by POB and Clear Seas Research.
Total stations and positioning continue to dominate the tool kit of land surveyors.
Current users who had no laser scanners a year ago is consistent from the 2016 to 2017 studies, reflecting an adoption rate that couples well with the growth in the number of scanners in use. The mean average number of scanners in use is 2.68, up from 1.71 scanners reported in 2016. And, while the number of surveyors reporting using a single scanner had dropped significantly, it appears this is more likely because more scanners were added.
Of the laser scanning tools used by surveyors, the growth rates for terrestrial mobile LiDAR and aerial LiDAR show strong demand.
While UAVs are being added at a strong pace, terrestrial laser scanners are also being added to the surveyor’s kit.
Topographic mapping continues to lead the applications for laser scanning, transportation and energy/utilities are showing strong increases.
Users and non-users expect to increase use of UAVs. Terrestrial scanners and photogrammetric cameras are at the top of the lists of current users.
The perception among surveyors is that demand for laser scanning continues to grow.
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A study by Esticast Consulting & Research forecasts the global LiDAR market will rise from $332.2 million in 2016 to reach $1.4 billion by 2024.
In 2016, aerial LiDAR technology lead the market garnering a revenue of $182.5 million and exhibiting the highest growth rate.
Among major regions, North America leads the market with a market share of $154.8 million.
“Developed regions such as North America and Europe are holding the largest market share of the LiDAR system market. The increasing demand of improvised automation and enhancement of metrological devices will open growth gateways for the LiDAR technology market in the emerging countries,” according to the report’s authors.
The aerial LiDAR segment was the largest application segment in 2016, the report continued. “Development of automation industry and requirement of improvised surveying technology is the key factor which is anticipated to drive the growth of the LiDAR market.”