Can I use Canvas outdoors?

The Short Answer

Direct sunlight interferes with most forms of 3D sensing to varying degrees, and this can negatively affect results. However, there are usually ways to make it work! 

The Long Answer

Most 3D sensors can struggle to varying degrees in direct sunlight, but sensitivity may vary. 

If you are using Canvas with a LiDAR-enabled iPad or iPhone, the embedded 3D sensor is less susceptible to sunlight interference, and we have both processed many scans including exteriors as well as scanned many exterior environments ourselves. However, the more "shielded" you are from direct sunlight (by trees, clouds, or other buildings), the better your performance will be. Direct sunlight may still interfere with your scan.

If you are using Canvas with a Structure Sensor, ambient infrared from direct sunlight will definitely interfere with its use. As a result, we don’t recommend using it on outdoor projects. You can learn more about how Structure Sensor works here.

Outside of sunlight interference, you may run into a few other limitations:

  • Range: the LiDAR sensor’s range is 5m, and Structure Sensor’s range is 3.5m, meaning roofs and second-story exteriors will be very challenging to capture. 
  • Scan To CAD: Scan To CAD will generally handle the exteriors of structures just fine, but will not convert landscape, fences, driveways, grass, or other items that may be important for exterior work. 

These limitations are why we chiefly promote Canvas for scanning interiors, but we have seen people use Canvas outdoors for many different projects — mainly for working on home exteriors. If you do want to try using Canvas outdoors, you can improve the likelihood of getting good results by:

  • Scanning around dusk
  • Scanning on an overcast day
  • Putting up some sort of cover or tarp to block out direct sunlight to the sensor

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