In the last two decades, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) were successfully used in different environments for diverse applications like territorial mapping, heritage 3D documentation, as built surveys, construction monitoring, solar panel placement and assessment, road inspections, etc. These applications were correlated to the onboard sensors like RGB cameras, multi-spectral cameras, thermal sensors, panoramic cameras, or LiDARs. According to the different onboard sensors, a different mission plan is required to satisfy the characteristics of the sensor and the project aims. For UAS LiDAR-based mapping missions, requirements for the flight planning are different with respect to conventional UAS image-based flight plans because of different reasons related to the LiDAR scanning mechanism, scanning range, output scanning rate, field of view (FOV), rotation speed, etc. Although flight planning for image-based UAS missions is a well-known and solved problem, flight planning for a LiDAR-based UAS mapping is still an open research topic that needs further investigations. The article presents the developments of a LiDAR-based UAS flight planning tool, tested with simulations in real scenarios. The flight planning simulations considered an UAS platform equipped, alternatively, with three low-cost multi-beam LiDARs, namely Quanergy M8, Velodyne VLP-16, and the Ouster OS-1-16. The specific characteristics of the three sensors were used to plan flights and acquired dense point clouds. Comparisons and analyses of the results showed clear relationships between point density, flying speeds, and flying heights.
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