Phoenix LiDAR Spotlight: Precision Aerial

Phoenix Flight Planner for UAS Drones - Phoenix LiDAR Systems

“Solving the Unsolvable:” Precision Aerial

We interviewed Scott McGowan, CEO and founder of Precision Aerial, a drone LiDAR and photogrammetry service provider from Conroe, Texas.

Tell us about Precision Aerial and why you started it.

  • Precision Aerial provides UAS LiDAR and photogrammetry inspection services in the U.S. and overseas. We started with energy infrastructure inspections, but we’ve expanded into urban development, and more.
  • I flew RC for 40 years and had been on the energy trading side of physical commodities like crude oil, fuel oil and natural gas for 25 years. About five years ago, I saw an opportunity to combine both of my careers and make inspections and surveys more efficient, safer and economical, so I started Precision Aerial.

What are some recent projects you’ve done with your Phoenix LiDAR equipment?

  • LiDAR Disaster Response: Hurricane Harvey [2017] changed the landscape of southeast Texas, and The Woodlands [Northern Houston] needed to assess the damage and changes to the city’s 22 mile drainage system to better prepare for the next disaster. Precision Aerial worked with our community to conduct the first drone LiDAR drainage survey by any city or local government agency. It was our own neighborhood, too, so we were glad to help out.
  • LiDAR Volumetrics: One of our clients needed to calculate the amount of silt spoils removed from a dredging project in a busy port area frequented by the petrochemical industry’s tankers and barges. The spoils were deposited on a small island in the channel, which became covered with the viscous spoils. Trying to survey traditionally with boots on the ground was impossible. It was too dangerous to send a team out to measure because of the quicksand-like property of the deposits, and there was so much vegetation on the island that photogrammetry couldn’t be an accurate option. Basically, the client was out of options until we mentioned the use of a UAS system with a LiDAR sensor. My team flew our LiDAR drone over the island and collected the data with our Phoenix MiniRANGER and it performed perfectly. We knocked that one out of the park–solved the unsolvable.

How has your partnership with Phoenix LiDAR been?

  • LiDAR is a big investment–money and time–so I spent the better part of a year researching LiDAR companies and talking to their clients about hardware and support–a good reputation was important, too.
  • I eventually bought two Phoenix miniRANGERs, and we fly them a lot–typically every week.
  • The relationship has been great, mainly because of performance–the accuracy is what Phoenix said it would be. Phoenix stands behind their products and has been helpful with any of our issues or questions.
  • Phoenix has been a critical partner in our scaling, and as we get bigger, we’ll be buying more. Frankly, this is a partnership that works.

Phoenix LiDAR Spotlights are an effort to support our clients and feature creativity in UAV LiDAR applications. No party received compensation as a result of this interview. Click on the links to learn more about Precision Aerial or its parent, LJA Engineers.

Tell us how you’re using your Phoenix LiDAR System!

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2018-10-24T09:21:55+00:00 March 6, 2018|Drones, LiDAR, UAV|

Velodyne: How a “Wild Idea” About LiDAR Transformed the Aerial Mapping Industry

Phoenix Flight Planner for UAS Drones - Phoenix LiDAR Systems

Read the full article on BusinessWire.

In 2012, Phoenix LiDAR CEO Grayson Omans had the revolutionary idea to mount a Velodyne LiDAR sensor on a UAV—and he transformed the aerial mapping industry in the process.

“I first approached Velodyne LiDAR in 2012 with the wild idea of putting a LiDAR sensor on a drone,” says Grayson Omans, CEO and co-founder of Phoenix LiDAR. “Back then, these LiDAR sensors were pretty expensive, so it was a novel idea. I had high hopes for the result, but I never imagined that we’d both end up disrupting the aerial mapping industry.”

The partnership between Velodyne and Phoenix took to the skies only six years ago, but already it has led to some remarkable innovations. Together, the two companies launched the industry’s first commercial UAV LiDAR system, establishing today’s broad use of LiDAR-enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Phoenix, which builds custom LiDAR systems by integrating various sensors, GNSS relative position receivers, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and more, went on to launch the industry’s first vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) fixed-wing UAV LiDAR system, the TerraHawk CW-20. For this innovation, Phoenix again chose a Velodyne LiDAR sensor. The TerraHawk allows surveyors to take advantage of the speed and stability of a fixed-wing UAV, while using VTOL to protect equipment in remote environments with no runway access.

“Our goal at Phoenix is to make drone LiDAR mapping easier and more affordable to any organization,” Omans adds. “We do a lot of research before we integrate a component into our LiDAR systems, and Velodyne has consistently offered a great balance between high power and affordability.”


2018-02-01T19:49:50+00:00 February 1, 2018|Drones, LiDAR, UAV|

LiDARMagazine: Phoenix LiDAR Systems: Excellence in UAV integration

Phoenix Flight Planner for UAS Drones - Phoenix LiDAR Systems

Read the full article on LiDARMagazine‘s website.

Managing Editor Stewart Walker met with Phoenix LiDAR in their Los Angeles office, profiling a young company that leads the market in the integration of LiDAR sensors with UAVs:

Amidst the excitement of UAVs and their rapid development as a disruptive technology in our geospatial world, LIDAR Magazine is pleased to take a closer look at a team driving such innovation. Phoenix LiDAR Systems, the first to offer commercial UAV LiDAR, hails from the Palms neighborhood in Los Angeles. Located just a stone’s throw from big names such as Sony Pictures, NPR, and the NFL, Phoenix’s roots indeed echo the entertainment ideals of its neighbors: CEO Grayson Omans started his UAV flying days hovering cameras over actors on film sets, and as UAV and LiDAR technology became more affordable for commercial use, he saw an opportunity and shifted his UAV payload from imagery to lasers.

The move from aerial filming to aerial mapping was a daunting task, the first requirement being reliable control and tracking of the UAV. Enter Dr. Benjamin Adler, co-founder and researcher who wrote his Ph.D. thesis on autonomous UAV mapping. Working with a lot of fishing wire, Grayson and Ben developed a reliable method of controlling the UAV without risk of it flying away with their equipment. They then sought to borrow $52,000 of LiDAR equipment from none other than Velodyne LiDAR, a big request coming from a tech startup comprised of two people. To its credit, Velodyne agreed, sending Dr. Wolfgang Juchmann to Southern California to witness the test flight. A week after his wedding, and to his young wife’s eternal chagrin, Grayson postponed his honeymoon and worked with Ben to prototype what would become the industry’s first commercial UAV LiDAR system–needless to say, it featured a Velodyne sensor. Business ensued and the rest is history. Grayson’s candor and humor on this topic characterized our discussions and the insights into the UAV LiDAR world that emerged.

I spent several hours with Grayson, learning the Phoenix story first hand from him and his sales and marketing directors, Eric Agnello and Vu Nguyen. Grayson has a business degree from Cornell, though his father was a mechanical engineer, and the yen to take things apart and reassemble them rubbed off. Grayson began to build UAVs as a hobby and developed experience that would later inform his business decisions, including the opportunity created by combining an aircraft with sensors and software. He and Ben, who built their software development team in Hamburg, Germany, concluded that UAV autonomy is the holy grail for their fledgling industry, and proceeded accordingly. Combining autonomous UAVs with mapping necessities such as LiDAR sensors, high-definition cameras for photogrammetry, and a host of other equipment, appeared to Grayson as a powerful business case.


2018-02-23T17:34:42+00:00 January 31, 2018|Drones, LiDAR, UAV|

sUASNews: Phoenix Flight Planner

Phoenix Flight Planner for UAS Drones - Phoenix LiDAR Systems

Read the full article on the sUASNews website.

Optimize your LiDAR mission parameters before you fly. Calculate your flight plan, review estimated LiDAR data quality, and upload a terrain-following KMZ directly to your UAV! Explore the effects that different parameters have on your data before you fly. Estimate your data quality and reduce costs by experimenting with various flight paths, altitudes, and other variables using the Phoenix Flight Planner.

How does Phoenix Flight Planner Help Me? LiDAR data is heavily affected by sensor, altitude, terrain, and more. Using the Flight Planner tool, Phoenix customers can save time and money by planning missions before going into the field.

Calculate your flight plan based on your area of interest (AOI).
Estimate your LiDAR swath and point density based on terrain, speed, and more.
Anticipate MTA zones that may affect data quality, especially in uneven terrain.
Upload a terrain-following KMZ directly to your UAV.


2018-01-15T18:33:14+00:00 January 15, 2018|Drones, LiDAR, Software, UAV|

RIEGL Highlights Phoenix Partnership

Ranger Series by Phoenix LiDAR Systems

Read the full article on RIEGL’s website.

Editor Note: This partner spotlight is on Phoenix LiDAR, one of our RIEGL partners who specialize in unique multi-vehicle LiDAR solutions for their clients. We here at RIEGL are proud and honored to work with such a fantastic company and people.

Phoenix LiDAR are pioneers of the UAV LiDAR industry who continue to push research and development to bring customers surveying and mapping solutions that are lighter, more powerful, and easier to use. A RIEGL partner for many years, Phoenix consistently integrates RIEGL sensors into some of its most powerful LiDAR payloads to offer customers a balance of data accuracy, lower weight, and overall budget.

The company came to be in 2012 when CEO Grayson Omans foresaw the convergence of two industries: first, that LiDAR sensors would soon become light enough to fly on unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as UAVs or drones, and second, that UAV prices would soon drop enough that surveying organizations and the like would seek drone LiDAR solutions for their offerings. LiDAR, at that time, was widely used in surveying, but unmanned aerial LiDAR was an untapped opportunity.

After working with sensor manufacturers, Phoenix launched the industry’s first commercial UAV LiDAR system. As the UAV LiDAR market grew globally, Phoenix leveraged its head start to develop other “firsts,” including the first real-time 3D point cloud visualizer, which displays live data capture to reduce acquisition error in the field; the first fixed-wing VTOL UAV LiDAR system, which combines the speed of a fixed-wing with the asset protection that VTOL offers for survey environments without runways; and the first cloud-based LiDAR post-processing platform, LiDARMill, which reduces the high investment costs associated with post-processing (

Another popular technology for surveying and mapping was, and still is, photogrammetry. Phoenix believes that LiDAR and photogrammetry form a strong complement to a surveyor’s tool chest. Because of its use of lasers, LiDAR addresses some of photogrammetry’s key shortcomings, like a lack of precision accuracy, an inability to penetrate vegetation, and limitations in poor light conditions. When used together, surveyors and mapping professionals are discovering that the pair are a powerful combination.

Phoenix LiDAR Systems

Phoenix LiDAR offers a wide range of custom, survey-grade LiDAR mapping systems, such as the Scout, the Alpha Series, the miniRANGER, and the RANGER Series.The Scout is an entry-level system that enables clients to use LiDAR to penetrate vegetation, map smaller areas, and inspect basic infrastructure. The Alpha and the miniRANGER are both mid-range systems that can tackle more demanding conditions, with the miniRANGER featuring the RIEGL miniVUX.

The most robust and accurate system offered by Phoenix is the RANGER Series, which features variations of the RIEGL VUX, along with Phoenix’s hardware and software. This system can be customized with a host of accessories and cameras, hyperspectral and thermal, to name a few, and is their most flexible system: compatible with aircraft, UAV/drones, vehicles, vessels, and even a backpack mount.

In addition to these custom LiDAR systems, Phoenix training helps clients understand every aspect of their investment, from LiDAR acquisition to post-processing, and even UAV pilot training. This support gives Phoenix clients all the tools needed to serve their clients, in turn.


2018-01-08T20:19:45+00:00 January 8, 2018|Drones, LiDAR, Ranger Series, SCOUT, Software, UAV|

High-End Drone Tech Finds Way

Ranger Series by Phoenix LiDAR Systems

By: Garrett Reim
Read the full article on the LA Business Journal website.

Los Angeles, CA — December 1, 2017 — Entrepreneurs looking to enter the fast-growing commercial drone sector are finding it tough to compete as low-cost models from China dominate the market.

But there are other drone-related manufacturing plays that can spell success to businesses here.

Case in point: Phoenix LiDAR in Palms ditched its efforts to build quadcopter drones several years ago after realizing it couldn’t compete against existing manufacturers, such as DJI of Shenzhen, China, which now has an estimated 70 percent share of the civilian drone market that is projected to grow to more than $100 billion annually.

Phoenix, which employs 26, rearranged its operations to solely manufacture light-weight, drone-mounted LiDAR sensors, a laser-based surveying tool similar to radar used to create 3-D maps of topography, power line infrastructure and construction sites. The company is burrowing deeper into its LiDAR niche with plans to release next year cloud-based software for calibrating and analyzing LiDAR data, according to its co-founder and Chief Executive Grayson Omans.

“We just decided to focus purely on how we can improve LiDAR, the processing of the data, and all the different packages for these different applications,” he said. “We’ve barely scratched the surface of this.”

While the technology is nascent, there’s lots of money on the table. Phoenix’s sensors cost between $50,000 and $250,000. The company’s shift away from drone manufacturing and towards specialized sensors is already bearing fruit. Last year the firm generated about $5 million in revenue and this year it is on track to double its sales. The five-year-old company has taken no outside funding, Oman said.

Phoenix’s business took off last year when the Federal Aviation Administration introduced Part 107, a new regulation which allowed personnel to fly drones for commercial use with a remote pilot airman certificate, a classification easier to achieve than a full-fledged pilot’s license.

“There was a long R&D phase, but as soon as Part 107 came out from the FAA and unlocked the U.S. market we saw a huge need for LiDAR,” said Omans.

Demand for the technology by everyday personnel is still limited by its complexity, however, said Omans. The company aims to solve that by automating much of the LiDAR calibration and analysis process with its forthcoming subscription-based software, which will cost $550 a month to $800 a month.

“At the end of the day collecting the data, is really the easy part,” said Andrew Aubrey, chief executive of SeekOps, a drone-mounted methane sensor manufacturer in Pasadena. “It’s having the expertise to process that data, and reuse that data, and turn it into actionable information, which is a huge part of the value chain.”

Omans envisions the task of flying drones, as well as collecting and analyzing data, will ultimately be completely automated and will allow drones to operate far beyond a human’s field of view.

“A lot of our utility customers’ line of site is maybe 5 power poles. They want to go miles and miles,” he said.


2018-01-05T01:27:33+00:00 December 1, 2017|Drones, LiDAR, UAV|

Phoenix LiDAR Unveils LiDAR Mill, the First Cloud-Based Post-Processing Platform

Cloud-based LiDAR platform automates trajectory processing, making the technology more affordable and accessible

Los Angeles, CA — October 25, 2017 — Addressing a major opportunity in the LiDAR industry, Phoenix LiDAR Systems has announced its LiDAR Mill platform, the first cloud-based, fully automated LiDAR post-processing tool. Historically, the large quantities of raw data generated by laser-based mapping systems has made processing a resource-intensive and sometimes cost prohibitive factor for many organizations. With LiDAR Mill, users can now upload raw mapping data directly to the cloud service and download processed data files in the industry-standard LAS format, with significant time and cost savings.

The LiDAR Mill platform breaks the formerly manual and highly technical post-processing procedure into three automated steps, or “pipelines.” The first, christened as the NavLab Pipeline, is a trajectory module that processes inertial and GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) data in forward and reverse several times to achieve the greatest possible accuracy. This trajectory is then fused with 3-dimensional XYZ LiDAR data to create an unfiltered LAS file, which can be further refined through other processing algorithm pipelines, like flight line matching, filtering, and more. The final product is a calibrated and “de-noised” point cloud with basic “ground/non-ground” classification. LiDAR Mill users can then download their data for further processing, or simply forward it to customers as a final deliverable.

As LiDAR technology becomes increasingly affordable, organizations seeking to conduct surveying or mapping operations can further take advantage of customizable solutions within the LiDAR Mill platform. The NavLab Pipeline, for example, can be used as a stand-alone module just for trajectory processing, or as the starting point for additional pipelines, like planimetrics, advanced classification, DTM (Digital Terrain Model) creation, and more.

“We’re excited to launch LiDAR Mill because it fills that gap in the UAV LiDAR mapping puzzle,” says CEO Grayson Omans, “it makes post-processing faster and affordable so that more organizations can use it.”

The use of LiDAR for mapping and surveying has long been a preferred method for teams in mining, utilities, forestry, and more. As the industry grows and hardware becomes more affordable, LiDAR Mill further drives down costs by automating post-processing and leveraging cloud computing. Phoenix LiDAR’s new platform enables even more companies to take advantage of the detailed 3D data LiDAR offers.

Try LiDAR Mill for free!
Go to

Phoenix LiDAR Systems is an industry leader in building compact, survey-grade laser mapping and photogrammetry solutions, as well as cloud-based, automated data post-processing, enabling clients to collect detailed, 3D topographic information for a wide range of commercial and research applications, including engineering, construction, mining, and more. For more information, visit


Vu Mark Nguyen
Director of Marketing

2017-10-31T00:28:54+00:00 October 31, 2017|Drones, LiDAR, UAV|

Phoenix LiDAR Partners with JOUAV to Launch the TerraHawk CW-30, a VTOL/Fixed-Wing UAV Optimized for Long Distance LiDAR Mapping

Sept 25, 2017, 08:00 PST from Phoenix LiDAR Systems

Today at the InterGeo tradeshow in Berlin, JOUAV and Phoenix LiDAR Systems unveiled the TerraHawk CW-30, a custom LiDAR equipped version of JOUAV’s popular CW-30 hybrid VTOL/fixed-wing aircraft. Hybrid VTOL / fixed-wing technology offers an innovative and logistically simple solution to the problem of takeoff and landing fixed-wing aircraft by combining the vertical takeoff & landing (VTOL) capabilities of a multirotor aircraft with the efficiency, speed, and flight endurance of a typical fixed-wing aircraft. The result is a reduced operational footprint – no runway requirement, no approach obstacle issues, no launch/recovery infrastructure required.

The TerraHawk CW-30 comes equipped with the Phoenix LiDAR Systems Ranger-LR-T, a custom, weight-optimized, complete LiDAR + Camera mapping system. This complete solution provides both high density LiDAR point clouds as well as high resolution ortho imagery. The Ranger LR-T is directly controlled via the JOUAV Ground Control Station for real time quality check and analysis. This pairing will map up to 52 km² in a single flight, absolute accuracy down to 2cm, and flight endurance of up to 120 minutes.

A highly portable and convenient design allows for transport/operation by only two technicians, and is flight-ready in less than 15 minutes. By eliminating launch & recovery equipment, there are significantly fewer items to transport and ship. Advanced automatic fail-safe mode with emergency multirotor landing capability means increased safety, and peace of mind for long range mapping missions.

Grayson Omans, CEO of Phoenix LiDAR Systems stated, “The TerraHawk CW-30 is our best-in-class LiDAR and imaging payload combined with the efficiency and safety of VTOL/fixed-wing technology. We’re thrilled to partner with JOUAV and introduce the TerraHawk CW-30 to the geospatial industry at InterGeo.”

For more information on the TerraHawk CW-30 visit JOUAV and Phoenix at InterGeo, co-located at booth IAS.B055, or visit

Phoenix LiDAR Systems, located in Los Angeles CA, is a leading systems integrator in the UAV LiDAR market.  The company builds compact, multi-vehicle compatible, survey-grade laser mapping & photogrammetry solutions.

Located in Chengdu China, JOUAV Automation Co. Ltd, is a leading manufacturer of multipurpose, high-quality, and superior performance UAV flight control systems. The company specializes in VTOL/Fixed-wing aircraft for commercial and military applications.

For Details Contact:
Bianca Fuchs 323-577-3366
Marketing Director


2017-10-31T00:21:07+00:00 September 25, 2017|Drones, LiDAR, TerraHawk, UAV|

Phoenix LiDAR Gearing up for InterGEO in Berlin September 26-28, 2017

Phoenix is getting ready for this upcoming InterGEO event in Berlin, Germany, September 26-28. Our biggest event of the year and the world’s No. 1 event for the geospatial community, InterGEO 2016 hosted 17,600 professional visitors from more than 107 countries across industries such as: land management, agriculture and forestry, remote sensing, geology, mining, spatial and land use planning, and more.

This year’s show will be focusing on the European Space Station’s COPERNICUS project, an EU initiative aimed at developing European information services based on satellite Earth Observation and in situ (non-space) data, acknowledging the growing importance of remote sensing. Further highlights of the event will include innovation across smart city/digital city planning and building, as well as the newest developments and applications within the unmanned aerial systems industry at the Interaerial Solutions section of the trade show.

Phoenix’ CTO, Dr. Ben Adler, will be hosting a brief conference talk Wednesday, September 27th from 1:30pm-2:00pm with debuting our newest Phoenix UAV + LiDAR data post-processing tools at the the IASEXPO InnovationsFORUM. Also make sure to catch our live flight demo at the Flightzone before the talk Wednesday, September 27th at 10:30am.

Leaving you with some impressions from last year and looking forward to seeing you this year!

2017-07-26T23:52:30+00:00 July 21, 2017|Demo, Drones, Europe, Expo, LiDAR, Phoenix Equipped, UAV|

Phoenix Aerial Expands and Rebrands as Phoenix LiDAR

Industry leader in UAV LiDAR technology expands in Los Angeles’ Culver City neighborhood

Los Angeles, CA — January 1, 2017 — Phoenix Aerial Systems, Inc., an industry leader in providing custom UAV LiDAR solutions, has announced its expansion and rebranding. The company, now known as Phoenix LiDAR Systems, Inc., has moved its headquarters from 3384 Robertson Place, Suite 102 in Los Angeles, CA, to 10131 National Blvd, in Los Angeles, CA.

The move comes after years of growth as the company takes on more domestic and international clientele. At their new Culver City location, all of Phoenix LiDAR’s various technology units are now able to work together under one roof–and under a new brand.

“Watching Phoenix LiDAR grow and then take on so many international clients has been a great validation of our idea to integrate LiDAR onto a UAV,” said CEO Grayson Omans, “no one had done that before, and it’s been fun to see the industry evolve with us.”

To learn more about Phoenix LiDAR, the TerraHawk, or LiDARMill, visit


Phoenix LiDAR Systems is an industry leader in building compact, survey-grade laser mapping and photogrammetry solutions, as well as cloud-based, automated data post-processing, enabling clients to collect detailed, 3D topographic information for a wide range of commercial and research applications, including engineering, construction, mining, and more. For more information, visit

Vu Mark Nguyen
Director of Marketing

2017-11-03T22:44:04+00:00 January 1, 2017|Drones, LiDAR, TerraHawk, UAV|