How good are you at judging distances? If you are like most people, your accuracy level starts to fall off after about 20 feet. This can be a real problem, particularly in situations where an accurate distance reading is critical to what you are seeking to accomplish.
Laser rangefinders are used to determine the distance between two locations. The two points are the position the person is using the rangefinder is standing and the target for which the person is attempting to ascertain the correct distance.
There is a general belief amongst the public that rangefinders measure distance. This is incorrect. A rangefinder actually measures time and then converts it to a distance measurement. An example can help show how the process works.
Let’s assume you are playing golf. Your shot is off the fairway [a common problem in my game!] and you are trying to measure the distance to the hole. You would hold the laser rangefinder up and view the hole through it just as you would with binoculars. In this case, you would focus on the flag pole and then trigger the rangefinder. The device would send out the laser, which would hit the flag pole and bounce back to the rangefinder much like sonar works in a boat.
To calculate the distance to the hole, the rangefinder measures the time it took for the laser to make the round trip. A computer program within the device then applies the time to a mathematical formula, which produces the distance from the user to the target within a foot or so depending on the quality of the device.
Laser rangefinders are very accurate because the technology and engineering used is designed to work independent of the conditions present. For example, the laser always travels at an exact speed and is not influenced by items such as wind. In turn, the mathematical formula used by the computer is also set in stone, so the distances returned from a scan are always accurate. All and all, these devices produce consistent, accurate measurements, which is the goal after all.
Are there safety issues when it comes to using the laser technology in these rangefinders? No. The wavelength and strength of the laser is not dangerous. The laser is so benign, one could focus it on a single spot for an hour without heating up the surface of the spot.
What kind of uses are there for laser rangefinders? There are many different applications. They include sports such as golf, archery, hunting and hiking to mention a few. The ability to gauge the distance to a target for golfers or hunters is critical, but so is the ability to estimate how far a trail really heads up a mountain if you are out in the middle of nowhere.
Business applications exist as well. Laser rangefinders are a critical piece of equipment when it comes to establishing grading for the foundations of buildings. In a modern twist, rangefinders are now even being used for 3D modeling since they can return accurate measurements of distances to various parts of any target. By contrasting the different distances to parts of the target, computer programs can “paint” a 3D image of the target.
The use of laser rangefinders is expected to pick up as time passes and more needs develop. For example, renewable energy wind farms now often use these devices to measure out the location of individual turbines in an effort to maximize energy efficiency.
The quality of a particular laser rangefinder is indicative of the accuracy of the measurements it produces. While even lower quality rangefinders will produce measurements accurate to within a foot or two over significant distances, higher quality rangefinders will producer far more accurate measurements and do it over greater distances.
The old cliché is “garbage in, garbage out” when it comes to computer programs. In the case of the programs running in rangefinders, this cliché happens to be very accurate. Higher quality devices provide better measurements for a number of reasons. The first is the mechanism for firing and receiving laser impulses is of greater accuracy, which returns better hard data. A higher quality rangefinder will also include more detailed programming to filter out extraneous data that might produce a less than accurate reading to the target.
Laser rangefinders are one of those devices you can’t really value until you have one. Once you do and start using it, you will wonder how you ever lived without one.