Why LiDAR? Reasons to Consider LiDAR, UAV Data Capture, and Suggested LiDAR Software Solutions

LiDAR data, you may be working with it or perhaps you’ve been thinking about it. The major factors which drive the LiDAR market are a rise in encouragement from the governments and institutes for the adoption of LiDAR, increasing application of LiDAR in engineering projects, and technological superiority of LiDAR technology. And get this, the LiDAR market is expected to reach $5,204.8 million by 2022 from $1,429.7 million in 2016, at a CAGR of 25.8% from 2017 to 2022 (Source: reportsnreports). So, are you considering LiDAR for a future mapping project or UAV data capture mission?

LiDAR Considerations - VCGI Lidar Program (Photo credit: USGS)
LiDAR Considerations – VCGI Lidar Program (Data credit: USGS)

For companies like GEO Jobe, we’re excited about LiDAR, particularly with the surge in business and activity we are seeing from our UAV services group. Drones are changing the way surveyors can capture imagery and data and the incorporation of a laser scanner can take things one step further. With lightweight and compact options for off-the-shelf drones, UAV LiDAR systems are now an accessible and affordable investment for surveying businesses and UAV data providers. We’re seeing interest from our UAV clients from construction, agriculture, government, facilities and other industries who can benefit from LiDAR data capture from UAV. This is an exciting space that offers plenty of opportunity and we’re stoked about it. According to 3Dlasermapping, “Results can be faster and more cost effective for projects where airborne LiDAR would be prohibitively expensive or where repeat surveys are needed to monitor environmental conditions or provide situational analysis on a on an ongoing basis.”

LiDAR is indeed all the rage and there’s a number of tools and resources at the disposal of the technology professional to help him/her work with better and smarter with point clouds and LiDAR data. Now that we’ve identified what the value of LiDAR data is, we explore some solutions that a GIS department can adopt in order to work with LiDAR data.

Rapidlasso LAStools

According to the developer, this product suite is used  heavily used in the commercial sector, government agencies, research labs, and educational institutions alike for filtering, tiling, rasterizing, triangulating, converting, clipping, quality-checking, etc… LAStools is a collection of highly-efficient, scriptable tools with multi-core batching that process LAS, compressed LAZ, Terrasolid BIN, ESRI Shapefiles, and ASCII.


The company has a number of fine solutions that will help the LiDAR user be much more productive including their LiDAR Compressor Tool – LiDAR Compressor enables you to reduce LiDAR file sizes by 75 percent or more while retaining all of your points and all of the precision and accuracy of your point data.

Global Mapper LiDAR Module

The LiDAR Module provides numerous advanced LiDAR processing tools, including automatic point cloud classification, automatic extraction of buildings, trees, and powerlines, cross-sectional viewing and point editing, custom digitizing or extraction of 3D line and area features, dramatically faster surface generation, LiDAR QC, and much more. – read more about the latest release of Global Mapper with enhanced LiDAR data support

RiALITY – LiDAR Data Visualization on iPad from Riegl

This new, innovative App, the first of its kind, allows users to experience LiDAR data in a completely new environment. It also allows easier LiDAR data demonstrations through the use of an iPad. RiALITY features true color point clouds and 3D navigation.

What is LiDAR?
LiDAR technology uses waves typically in the visible, ultraviolet and infrared range. This technology enables direct measurement of 3D structures and underlying terrain with high resolution and high data accuracy

LiDAR sample image: Credit USGS
LiDAR sample image: Credit USGS

TerraSolid for processing LiDAR data

Terrasolid develops software products that are used for processing LiDAR and image data from airborne and mobile laser scanning systems. TerraSolid products are able to use the pointclouds in a geospatial setting.

LiDAR in ArcGIS / ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS offers many tools for managing lidar point clouds and deriving useful products from them to aid scientific research and decision making. ArcGIS Pro supports lidar data provided as LAS or Optimized LAS (.ZLAS) files. There are different formats (datasets) that can be used to manage and work with your lidar data in ArcGIS Pro depending on your needs, which include the LAS dataset, the mosaic dataset, and the point cloud scene layer. Also, individual LAS or ZLAS files can be used in ArcGIS Pro with the same support as a LAS dataset. Note,  Esri has a paper on their website offering up 5 tips for working with LiDAR more efficiently in ArcGIS.

Certainty 3D

Software for working with and extracting featured from LiDAR data. Solutions include TopoDot for point cloud data processing, TopoLift to support your laser scanning, and TopoPlanner & TopoMission, free apps to help plan, estimate and manage your scanning projects


This solution turns ArcMap Basic edition into the world’s most powerful GIS environment for LIDAR point cloud processing. Available in three levels of capability

Merrick MARS

The Merrick Advanced Remote Sensing (MARS®) software suite is a comprehensive, production-grade Windows application designed to visualize, manage, process and analyze LiDAR point cloud data. The MARS suite includes MARS FreeView (basic LiDAR visualization), MARS Explorer (LiDAR data classification and processing), MARS Explorer QC (automated feature processing), and MARS Production for advanced processing and more.

Safe Software

FME has a number of built in functionality that enables users to precess and analyze raster data products – Dale Lutz of Safe addressed the topic of LiDAR way back in 2011 in a blog post that discussed how Esri was knocking down the barriers to working with LiDAR data via their native support for LAS within ArcGIS at R 10.1. FME can support the transformation of point cloud data into over 300 data formats! See more on FME LiDAR solutions

There’s many uses of LiDAR data, ranging from river surveys, flood models, forestry and agriculture planning, to mapping, coastline management, and mining. Here’s a nice list of 50 sample uses for LiDAR data. If you think you might be interested in exploring the potential use of LiDAR data in your next mapping project do contact us.

See Also More Geospatial solutions for LiDAR data:

West Wilson Utility District Turns to GEO Jobe for UAV Data Capture & Orthophoto Updates

Construction and Surveying Industries Seeing Reduced Costs, Increased Productivity by Adopting UAV Technology

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