A simple noncontact optical profilometer is described. Two light spots are scanned respectively over the shape to be measured and over a reference surface. The difference of elevation between the two surfaces is calculated from the time delay between the two pulses received by an image plane detector. Carefully calibrated, the method offers the possibility of a fast, precise and easily automated measurement. Feasibility experiments are presented which describe the application of the method to the control of small mechanical pieces (~cm) and the measurement of large objects (~m).