Do you know the fascinating origin of the term LiDAR?

Do you know the fascinating origin of the term LiDAR?

LiDAR Scanned image of a bridge in New Orleans. Image Courtesy: GCN

Before last year I didn’t have a faint clue of what LiDAR is, what it does and why it is among the technologies decisively shaping the future. It was while researching about autonomous cars that I got to know about LiDAR – and my immediate reflex was that LiDAR seems to be a lesser-known cousin of the famous Radar. A nondescript member, but in the family after all! And now this obscure cousin was striving to carve a niche away from the shadow of its more distinguished peer, I thought upon learning that LiDAR is being used in everything from laser scanning to 3D Modeling to sensors.

No, LiDAR isn’t the cousin of ‘Big Brother’ Radar. But I want to emphasize how the term Radar has been etched in our minds and imagination, so the very first thing that anyone who hasn’t heard LiDAR would relate to is invariably Radar.

LiDAR, as we all know, stands for Light Detection and Ranging.

It appears to be an acronym just like Radar is for Radio Detection and Ranging. Even someone who flunked his physics tests would confidently argue that instead of radio waves, LiDAR uses light waves (not at all an incorrect reasoning!) and both are apparently acronyms. But apparently is the determiner here. And another old wisdom being ‘appearances are often deceptive’.

Also Read: Do you know how many types of LiDAR are there?

LiDAR isn’t a short form. But rather a combination of two different words – what’s called portmanteau. Words like motel (motor +hotel) or broadcast ( broad+cast). Brexit (Britain +exit) being another example.

Similarly, LiDAR was originally coined as Light + Radar. So it’s a portmanteau rather than an acronym.

And your instinct didn’t really deceive you the first time.

So while Radar isn’t the big brother or a cousin of LiDAR but etymologically they are literally inseparable.

What’s even more interesting and mind-blowing is the fact that the full form of LiDAR was conceived many years later. And unbelievably, when the full form was decided after extensive research into its operational phenomenon, it fitted into the original term which was simply made by combining two words. Facts are stranger than fiction. Isn’t it? Or did you ever thought there is so much thrill and trivia in the origin of LiDAR?

Also Read: How LiDAR helps in preventing and mitigating landslides