Lidar, which refers to Light Detection and Ranging, is an optical remote sensing technique used in examining the Earth’s surface. It is used in the form of a laser pulse that measures a range relative to the Earth’s surface. Scientists make use of LIDAR-generated data to examine human-made and natural phenomena. With LIDAR data, scientists can accomplish activities that include but are not limited to; shoreline mapping, hydrographic surveys, storm surge modeling, and coastal vulnerability analysis.
Lidar dataset is challenging to deal with. Whereas it might prove a challenge to collect LIDAR data, there are free LIDAR data sources you can have access to. Lidar data is being picked up across diverse occupations. Did you know we have free LIDAR data sources? The following is a compilation of free and reliable sources of LIDAR data.
- National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM)
The NCALM is an online data distribution center. It focuses on availing adequate quality lidar data to the scientific community with a view of advancing airborne laser mapping. In doing so, the site has public access to airborne laser mapping data with high resolution. The U.S. National Science Foundation sponsors it. They have made it possible to download data files on their site using a Google Earth interface.
- Open Topography
That is a data facility that is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The facility focuses on data that is related to Earth science, bathymetry data, and topography. One can access and download sufficient lidar datasets available in point cloud format on their site.
The Open Topography system can also generate custom derivative products like digital elevation models with desired resolutions. They have an algorithm that can generate geomorphic metrics like hill shade and slope maps. Besides, the system can visualize the data products on the web for display.
- The Environmental Agency of the United Kingdom
This body made its lidar data-free in 2015. The aim was to help communities and businesses create flood risk models. The agency has a specialist remote sensing team that surveys digital elevation data. Today, the Environment Agency’s lidar data has this type of data in its archives. As such, over 70% of England has access to accurate elevation data, courtesy of the Environment Agency of the U.K.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S.
This organization’s dataset is the most used type of data for coastal communities. They are regularly updated and provided for free use. It has over 600 datasets that are a pool of efforts from different organizations. They have a coverage of over 550,000 square miles of Digital Coast lidar data. The main contributors to this data are the NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Users can access lidar data through an online tool that you can use for search and download.
The bottom line
In the United States, the body that leads in the democratizing free lidar data is the USGS. You probably thought that free lidar data was hard to come by before reading this article. The reality is that there are many organizations, not just in the U.S. or U.K., that provide free lidar data sources for public access. Across the world, we have free lidar data sources in the U.S., UK, Spain, Netherlands, and Finland.