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A new LiDAR - innovative measuring device to characterize wind and atmosphere - for the LHEEA Laboratory

The LHEEA has recently acquired a scanning LiDAR, an innovative measuring device to characterize wind and atmosphere. It will be used for marine renewable energy (MRE), urban atmosphere and air quality applications.

on October 9, 2019

How it works

LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) is an optical measurement device that characterizes the atmosphere. A LASER emits, at several megahertz, short pulses into the air which are reflected back by aerosols naturally present in the atmosphere (dust, pollution, drops of water etc). The particles returning the light travel at local wind speed, the signal received by the LiDAR is therefore phase-shifted by Doppler effect in proportion to the speed of particles in the LiDAR's line of sight. This is known as radial velocity measurement.

The time of flight (time between the emission of a laser pulse and the reception of its backscattering by the aerosols) makes it possible to identify the location of the particles in the line of sight and thus to reconstruct the radial velocity profile using preset ranging. In addition, backscattered signal processing is used to determine aerosol concentration in the atmosphere along the line of sight with a range of several kilometres.

The LHEEA's new scanning LIDAR, the WINDCUBE 100S produced by Leosphere, has a range of 3 km and has an articulated head to control the viewing angle in azimuth (360 °) and in elevation (+/- 110 ° from zenith).
Programming a series of shots at different angles reconstructs the vertical profile of the wind vector with a period of about 3 seconds. Other types of scanning are used to map a vertical slice of atmosphere (fixed azimuth and variable elevation) or a horizontal slice (elevation zero and variable azimuth) and thus to study atmospheric phenomena spatially: atmospheric boundary layer, wind turbine wakes, aerosol dispersion, large scales of turbulence etc.

National and international scope

The capabilities of the scanning LiDAR make it a leading instrument for wind analysis today. Its versatility offers operational possibilities across research themes in the LHEEA laboratory: knowledge of the atmospheric environment and the development of Marine Renewable Energies. Given the scarcity of such equipment nationally (only one device in an academic setting in France) and internationally, as well as high rental costs, the LHEEA opted to purchase a scanning LIDAR.

The use of a scanning LiDAR is a major advance in the positioning of the laboratory as a major national player on these themes. It is an important lever in the setting up of collaborative research programmes, and has already led to the submission and launch of several national and international research projects with high-level partners.

Funded projects in which a scanning LiDAR campaign is planned:  WEAMEC FLOATEOLE (2018) and WAKEFUL(2019), ANR MOMENTA (2019) and MATRAC (ANR-18-ASTR-0002), ADEME ePARADISE (2019) and VAMOS (German funding).

The LiDAR will be based on the Centrale Nantes campus and sent to different sites for these projects.

A tool for energy transition

The scanning LiDAR will be used for academic and operational purposes by the DAUC, EMO and SEM-REV research groups in the LHEEA laboratory to respond to societal and environmental issues directly related to energy transition. It will thus be a decisive tool to support the development of on- and offshore wind turbines including:

  • detailed assessment of the specificities of offshore wind resources and the interactions at work;
  • understanding of complex coastal atmospheric phenomena;
  • better characterization of wind resources;
  • verification of technology performance;
  • quantification of wake interactions between wind turbines,
  • better assessment of the environmental and economic impact.
The scanning LiDAR scanner will be a reference tool for microclimate analysis such as: 

  • measurement and analysis of aerosol dispersion,
  • establishing environmental diagnoses of air quality in coastal and urban environments,
  • role in diagnosing urban microclimate (i.e. urban heat islands).


The equipment is co-financed by the Pays de Loire region and the ERDF (2017 call for laboratory equipment) and by the Investments for the Future programme via PIA SEMREV.
Published on October 9, 2019 Updated on April 27, 2020