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Drone Photogrammetry VS LiDAR: Which is Better?


Drones have changed the way data is captured. And drone tech when combined with the right imaging software opens a whole new world of possibilities!

Using photogrammetry software, you can capture and convert real-time drone footage into an interactive map. Or with LiDAR scanners, you can generate realistic 3D models of the site location which would otherwise take weeks to complete. You can find how Victorian government is using 3D built form modelling for planning and urban design.

Both drone photogrammetry and LiDAR have their place in land surveys. At the end of the day, the choice between Drone-based photogrammetry vs LiDAR dumbs down to your unique surveying needs.

If your project requires absolute accuracy for aerial asset inspections, project tracking, stockpile measurements, etc. then LiDAR would be your best choice.

However, if you want to create 3D models for your marketing campaigns, business proposals, and presentations, investing in drone photogrammetry software would be your best bet.

Here is a short comparison between these two technologies to help you make the right choice.

Drone Photogrammetry

Drone photogrammetry in simple terms is measuring distances using a series of photographs. The only difference is, these photographs are processed using high-quality imaging software to convert 2D data into 3D models, interactive maps, etc.

Drone photogrammetry doesn’t need a lot of equipment or professional expertise. All you need is a decent drone, high camera calibration, basic flight planning, and ground control points (GCPs).

GCPs are reference points on the land that help the drone capture the right site when hovering up in the air. Ensure that your GCPs are properly placed on the ground to ensure clear pictures.

When to Use Drone Photogrammetry?

Drone photogrammetry is accessible, affordable, and quite simple, especially when compared to LiDAR.

Drone photogrammetry is best suited for construction projects, creating architectural blueprints, and creating marketing material for potential investors.

And while photogrammetry might not offer the level of accuracy a LiDAR would provide, it is a great tool for creating engaging 3D models and graphics that would keep your audience hooked.

With drone photogrammetry, you can create attractive project models, blueprints, business proposals, and marketing content to explain complicated construction projects to your investors in simpler terms.

The Pros and Cons of Drone Photogrammetry


  • Affordable and accessible
  • Doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment
  • Doesn’t require professional expertise
  • Great for creating marketable content


  • Not as accurate as LiDAR
  • Doesn’t work in uneven terrain
  • Not suitable for dark, narrow spaces

What is LiDAR Surveying?

LiDAR or Light detection and ranging measures distances using laser light. In this technology, the LiDAR emits light at the object/location and measures the time it takes for the light to reflect off the ground.

LiDAR aka 3D laser scanners also measure the intensity of the reflection and capture data as point cloud images. You can run the point cloud images in any imaging software such as AutoCAD or Civil 3D to generate accurate 3D maps and models of the location.

A lot of surveying experts believe that LiDAR scanners are best for capturing uneven topography with thick vegetation. However, some updates in drone photogrammetry software help you get similar results at a cheaper budget.

Drone photogrammetry is a decent alternative if you want surface-level survey data. However, I would still recommend that you talk to the drone operator and land surveyor to get an expert opinion before investing in any expensive LiDAR equipment.

When to Choose LiDAR?

LiDAR scanners are best applicable when you want accurate results. The 3D laser scanning equipment incorporates GNSS data and is perfect for measuring land elevation, terrain, and vegetation.

For instance, laser scanners have been used to map high-rise building basements and underground car parks in such unmapped buildings in Victoria (Australia), to help civil engineers and builders measure the volume of space occupied by them underground.

3D laser scanning is used by land surveyors, on-site project managers, engineers, and architects who need accurate location readings. It is an innovative tool that helps surveyors manage construction projects.

So, projects from sectors such as construction, mining, forestry, agriculture, etc. will best suit LiDAR technology. This is because LiDAR technology is typically the best choice for projects that demand absolute accuracy, i.e., data accuracy about their place in the real world.

The Pros and Cons of LiDAR Surveying


  • Great for penetrating thick vegetation and other obstacles
  • Works well even in low or insufficient natural lighting
  • Offers greater accuracy and precise readings


  • Expensive equipment
  • Higher scope for errors
  • Need for professional expertise

The Bottom Line: So, what should I pick?

Both drone photogrammetry and LiDAR scanners have their fair share of advantages and disadvantages. Both these surveying techniques are applicable in different situations and serve their purposes.

Drone photogrammetry is suitable for a surface-level survey to simplify complicated project data. LiDAR surveys, on the other hand, are for professionals who prioritize accuracy over everything else.

You should pick the right surveying technology depending on your project requirements. I hope that this helped you make an informed choice! Good luck with your next project!

Author Bio:

Chris Patchell is the General Manager and Director of Operations at AVIAN Australia. He is an avid drone enthusiast and loves innovative technologies. Chris is highly motivated and has a very hands-on approach to things and his goal is to create awareness about drone tech in Australian AEC industries.

On his days off, he is often scouting locations for photogrammetry and laser scanning. These days you’ll probably find Chris around the place using his drones and laser scanners to capture and recreate the real world in 3D space.


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