This Technology Could Transform Life in Cities

Using lidar to show us each street crack can help urban design improve quality of life.

Satellite images let us see Earth from above. But a technology closer to Earth can give us a much more detailed look.

Aerial “light detection and ranging,” also known as lidar (rhymes with eye-dar), works by sending laser pulses from a plane, helicopter, or drone. The device then receives information back about the surfaces below.

In the past, the highest resolution for lidar was about 40 points per square yard. But a team of researchers at New York University has increased the resolution to 280 points per square yard, resulting in a view from above—especially in urban areas—that’s far more detailed than ever before and true to cracks, curbs, and building facades.

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