Can I use Canvas to scan exteriors?

The Short Answer

Canvas is optimized and marketed for scanning residential interiors. The app does not differentiate between interior and exterior scans, however, so it can be used to scan exteriors subject to a handful of limitations and caveats. As a result, we don't actively promote Canvas for use outdoors, but we do see some customers use Canvas to scan exteriors successfully today. 

We do not recommend using Canvas for scanning landscaping, topography, and other non-structural elements you may find outdoors. Scan To CAD is likely to reject such scans.

The Long Answer

There are a number of limitations that can affect the success of using Canvas on exterior and/or outdoor projects, affecting both scanning itself as well as Scan To CAD. However, in many cases they can be worked around.

Sunlight interference. Most 3D sensors can struggle to varying degrees in direct sunlight, but sensitivity may vary. The LiDAR sensor used by LiDAR-enabled iOS devices will struggle most in very bright, direct sunlight, and not be very impacted on overcast days, or when scanning an area shielded from direct sunlight.

Range. The LiDAR sensor’s range is 5m, meaning roofs and second-story exteriors will be very challenging to capture.

Drift over very large areas. Generally, the larger an area you cover in a scan, the more small, unnoticeable measurement errors can compound, which is why Canvas states an accuracy tolerance in relative percentage terms vs. absolute terms. If you are scanning a very large side of a home, you may experience more drift (or distortion) in your model, which can affect accuracy. 

Scan To CAD oversimplification or incompleteness. Scan To CAD was built and optimized for interior scans, which means that you may find some aspects of an exterior Scan To CAD result oversimplified relative to your needs for a given project — or missing key elements due to range. Scan To CAD will also not convert landscape, fences, driveways, grass, or other items that may be important to your project.

Scan To CAD accuracy. If the limitations above affect the accuracy or quality of your scan data, this can lead to inaccuracies in your Scan To CAD result. If you are requesting a merge of both interior scans and exterior scans, merging low-quality exterior scans with high-quality interior scans can reduce the accuracy of the whole model. This is unlikely to be significant, but may push you outside of our typical accuracy tolerances

Mis-estimation. As our in-app square-footage estimation algorithms and pricing are built for interior scans, you may find that your in-app estimates are significantly off from the final square footage processed. 

Mis-billing. Scan To CAD is priced for interior scans, but we are willing to process exterior scans (on their own, or in addition to interior scans) for $0.05 per sqft. This means that if you are submitting exterior scans only, the app will likely charge you more than this by default, and you will need to request a refund after processing is completed. If you are submitting a set of both interior and exterior scans, the app will not include this extra $0.05 per sqft, and our team will likely need to follow-up with you for additional payment.