Written by Kyler Speich
If you have never heard of “Phodar” I don’t blame you. I came across the word while doing research for doing an outline for a Rescue Drone, but that is a whole other story. Phodar is a hot topic in the Geospatial nerd community right now because it gets you the same last return readings as Lidar, but does not use actual Lidar. For me it was MIND BLOWING to watch as someone at the University of California proceeded to create this interactive phodar map-> http://igis.ucanr.edu/Drone_Phodar/. It uses 3D mapping, and interactive tool bars so that you can see the outlines of all the trees, hills and even the grass if you zoom in and set your “Point Budget” high enough in the menu.
The biggest reason Phodar has become big news is because you do not need anything more than some software, a drone and a camera. It uses the pixel data with photogrammetry to determine elevation and maps it accordingly in a 3D format. Lidar still has a big edge up depending on what kind of information you’re trying to derive. Phodar still only gives you available data that the camera captures, but Lidar can still penetrate non-earth matter and give you many returns. But I find the uses for agriculture or small scale mapping that requires Z axis measurements, this would be significantly cheaper than having someone fly Lidar over your area and process all of the information. I could even see Phodar being used for recreation by Alpinist or rock climbers to scout out routes in real time.