Lidar vs. Photogrammetry: Understanding Pricing and Technical Variances of Drone Inspection Services

May 22, 2023

Drones have revolutionized the way many industries collect data. By using lidar or photogrammetry technologies, drones can quickly and accurately capture data that was previously difficult or impossible to obtain. However, the cost of each drone service can vary widely depending on your final objective for the deliverables and the technology used.

Before selecting a drone service for your upcoming project, it is crucial to have an awareness of the intricate technical and pricing aspects of lidar in comparison to photogrammetry for data capture. By understanding the significant factors that impact drone service pricing when utilizing lidar versus photogrammetry, you can make an informed decision and choose the appropriate technology for your needs.

To help with this, Volatus Unmanned Services has prepared a comprehensive guide that sheds light on the cost of lidar and photogrammetry inspections, creating a better understanding for potential clients regarding the anticipated costs associated with these specific types of drone services.

What is LIDAR?

Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) is a remote sensing technology that uses laser sensors to measure distances. Lidar sensors emit laser pulses and then measure the time it takes for the pulse to bounce back after hitting an object. By calculating the time it takes for the laser pulse to return, lidar sensors can create highly detailed 3D maps of the environment.

What is photogrammetry?

Photogrammetry is a remote sensing technology used to create 3D models of objects, structures, and landscapes. This process involves taking overlapping photographs of the subject from different angles and then using specialized software to analyze the similarities and differences between these images. By identifying common points and features across the photographs, the software can create a dense point cloud, a large collection of points representing the subject’s surface. From this point cloud, the software can generate a 3D model, which can be used for various applications, including land surveying, construction planning, and archaeology.

The accuracy of photogrammetry depends on factors such as the photographs’ quality, the camera’s resolution, and the calibration of the software used to process the images.


The evolution of drone technology has fundamentally changed how professionals conduct aerial inspections, surveys, and data collection. While aerial videos were the initial draw, new technologies like lidar have transformed drones into powerful remote sensing platforms.

Lidar drones provide high-resolution, accurate data that professionals across various industries use to make informed decisions. However, determining the cost of lidar drone services can be complex, and buyers must be aware of the multiple factors that impact the cost. These factors include the area to be surveyed, the type of lidar sensor required, the data processing and analysis, the experience and expertise of the service provider, and the level of data accuracy needed.

The frequency and duration of flights can also impact the cost, however, discounts may be available for high-volume usage or multiple-day projects, which can significantly reduce these costs.

Lidar-Based Drone Services

$6,000 to $8,000 per day, with prices increasing up to
$12,000 depending on the project’s specific needs.


Sensor Cost
Lidar sensors are more sophisticated and expensive than cameras used for photogrammetry. Lidar sensors are also more complex and require more engineered and specialized components. This higher cost can make lidar-based drone services more costly than photogrammetry-based drone services.
Drone Vehicle Cost

Lidar-equipped drones are more expensive than photogrammetry drones due to the more advanced technology and specialized components required for lidar. Lidar technology uses laser beams to measure distances and create a highly detailed 3D map of the environment. This technology requires a special lidar sensor, which is more expensive than the cameras used in photogrammetry drones. Lidar also requires more processing power and specialized software to analyze the data and create a detailed 3D model. This means lidar-equipped drones typically need more powerful and expensive onboard computers and software.

Processing Time & Cost
Lidar data requires much more processing time and specialized software to process the raw data into an actionable and usable format. This additional processing time can typically take 2.5 times longer to process, subsequently driving the price of the service. Lidar data also requires more data storage space than photogrammetry data, which can also drive up the cost.
Accuracy Requirements
Lidar data is typically more accurate than photogrammetry data, particularly in situations where high accuracy is required, such as in construction or surveying applications. The need for higher accuracy may drive up the price of the drone service.
Project Complexity
The complexity of the project can also affect the pricing of the drone service. If the project requires more advanced lidar sensors or more complex data processing, the drone service provider may need to charge more to cover their expenses.


The cost of drone services can vary widely depending on various factors, including the type of drone technology used, the level of accuracy required, and the complexity of the project. Below are some examples of pricing and technical aspects for lidar and photogrammetry-based drone services:

Drone Services

  • On average, lidar-based drone services can cost between $300 and $1,000 per hour

  • Lidar sensors can cost anywhere from $7,000 to $150,000, depending on the level of accuracy required

  • Lidar data processing software can cost anywhere from $800 to $10,000 annually

  • Lidar data requires more storage space than photogrammetry data, which can also increase costs

Photogrammetry-Based Drone Services

  • On average, photogrammetry-based drone services can cost between $150 and $500 per hour 

  • Photogrammetry software can cost anywhere $500 to $8,000 per year
  • The accuracy of photogrammetry data can be affected by factors such as weather and lighting conditions


Both lidar and photogrammetry drone missions require a high level of expertise from the drone pilot, but the specific skills required may vary.

For lidar drone missions, the pilot should understand lidar and geospatial technology and its applications. This includes knowledge of how to properly calibrate and operate the lidar sensor, collect and process data, and interpret the resulting 3D point cloud. The pilot should also have experience with mission planning and executing complex flight paths, as lidar data typically requires more precise and systematic data capture than photogrammetry.


For any successful project, it is crucial to understand the standard deliverables that come with lidar services to ensure the best outcome. For example, with a lidar service provided by Volatus Unmanned Services, you are guaranteed two .las files – one containing all points and the other consisting of classified ground points. These files are essential in creating topographical maps and other data products, however, additional file types may be required depending on the project’s specifications, and producing them may increase the overall cost of the lidar service, whether produced internally or externally.

.DWG files

It’s essential to understand the different types of files that can be produced from lidar services. One example is the creation of two- and three-dimensional AutoCAD-compatible files containing vector image data and metadata. These files can be easily extracted from the .las format, making it easier to work with lidar data.

Contour Lines

Architects working with lidar data may find it helpful to know that contours can be produced to illustrate changes in land elevation. With drone lidar services, both minor and major lines are available, ranging from one to five-foot contours. This level of detail is invaluable in accurately representing the topography of a site.

Unclassified Point Cloud

This full, unclassified point cloud displays all buildings, trees, and powerlines as a single point cloud.

Classified Point Cloud

After classifications, individual classes can be turned on and off, or all classes can be toggled off to view only the bare earth.
When working with lidar datasets, it’s important to note that feature extractions can be performed to remove various types of objects. This includes high, medium, and low vegetation, as well as buildings, utilities, and power lines. By classifying these features, you can gain a more comprehensive understanding of both natural and man-made elements of the terrain, which can benefit a wide range of projects.

Drone Survey Planimetric and Line Work

Planimetrics refers to collecting and analyzing data related to the horizontal features of a site, such as the location of buildings, roads, and other structures. Line work involves collecting data on linear features, such as utility lines and drainage channels.

Together, drone survey planimetrics and line work provide architects and other professionals with the detailed data they need to design and plan projects more accurately and efficiently. By leveraging the power of lidar technology and drone surveying, these services can significantly improve the quality and speed of project planning and development.


Digital Elevation Models, Digital Terrain Models, and Digital Surface Models accurately represent the elevation of the true ground.

  • DEM – Represents the true ground absent of features like buildings and trees
  • DSM – Includes both natural and man-made features of the environment surface
  • DTM – Enhanced version of a DEM, which includes vector data of natural features like rivers


A 3D mesh is a collection of polygons and reference points that form a three-dimensional shape. Using lidar technology, 3D meshes can provide users with highly accurate spatial representations of a subject, enabling precise measurements of volume, area, and distance.

Forestry data

When working on a project located in a wooded area, traditional methods of collecting data can be difficult due to the obstructed view. However, lidar drone services can accurately measure tree height, crown cover, volume, biomass, and forest density. The technology is capable of reaching the ground surface through small openings in the canopy and foliage, allowing it to capture depth data that was previously inaccessible. This enables professionals to obtain detailed information and insight into the forested area that was once impossible to gather through traditional methods.


While photogrammetry can be a cost-effective solution for creating detailed 3D models and mapping, lidar provides a more accurate and precise data collection method suitable for various industries, from construction and architecture to forestry and land surveying.

As technology continues to evolve, the potential applications of drone services will only continue to expand. Whether you need to measure the height of trees in a dense forest or create a detailed map of a construction site, drone services can provide the data and insights necessary to make informed decisions and drive business growth.


Volatus Unmanned Services, the pioneers of drone services, offers unparalleled expertise in lidar technology. Our team of expert pilots and data specialists are dedicated to delivering the most precise and accurate data to our clients. If you want to take your project to the next level and gain deeper insights into your data, Volatus Unmanned Services lidar drone services are the perfect solution!

With a range of data types available, our team will consult and recommend the best options to achieve maximum business impact. Contact us today for a free quote and discover the power of lidar drone services.