How to download free LiDAR data online
Does it feel like a big challenge to find LiDAR data sources?
How about free LiDAR data sources?
We understand. LiDAR is a beast of a dataset to work with. What other GIS formats have their OWN compression format (LAZ)? C’mon! Have you ever seen a shapefile with its OWN compression format?
This fact alone makes LiDAR repositories national treasures in GIS.
So, as Dr. Evil would say *pinky in the mouth* – BRING OUT THE LASER
(Laser for LiDAR, of course). We’re bringing out the lasers in this special post on 6 free LiDAR data sources.
OpenTopography has made our list of the 10 best free global raster and vector data sources. And rightfully so.
If you don’t know about OpenTopography, you should probably take a peek. The beauty behind OpenTopography is its open community system. When users register, they can upload their data so that the larger community can access it.
You too can help grow OpenTopography into one of the biggest open data portals for free LiDAR data. Pretty neat.
- OpenTopography is a collaborative data repository for LiDAR users.
- An intuitive web map displays LiDAR points as downloadable data with metadata.
- Restriction-free access to topographic data.
2. USGS Earth Explorer
Previously, users could access USGS LiDAR data through CLICK (Center for LiDAR Information Coordination and Knowledge). However, this service is now being provided by the USGS Earth Explorer.
So you want USGS Earth Explorer LiDAR data? If you’re new to this platform, we have a quick guide to downloading data on the USGS Earth Explorer.
For LiDAR, it’s a simple process:
First, enter your search criteria (KML, coordinates, etc.). Next, select the checkbox for LiDAR in the data sets tab. Finally, click the results tab to see what LiDAR datasets are available.
- Search for LiDAR data with a user-friendly state-of-the-art interface.
- Filter searches by time and set regions of interest in a map by predefined areas and coordinates.
Also, USGS Earth Explorer sits on top of our 15 free satellite data sources, so it’s definitely worth your time to know it inside out.
3. The United States Interagency Elevation Inventory
There’s been a movement in the United States for a National LiDAR Dataset. This initiative is being led by the United States Inter-agency Elevation Inventory (USIEI). NOAA and USGS are spearheading this collaborative effort.
Several states have already moved forward in their own collections. To see exactly which states they are, the USIEI Inventory gives you this information along with vertical accuracy, point spacing, and date of collection. Downloading the physical data is not so straightforward. The National LiDAR Dataset Wikipedia page maintains download source locations.
- LiDAR sources are decentralized with partial and incomplete data across the United States.
- USIEI LiDAR data viewer displays the nationwide listing of known high-accuracy topographic data.
4. NOAA Digital Coast
NOAA’s mission (in the sense of LiDAR data) is clear. Overall, they want to capture coastal area LiDAR data. Then, they serve this data openly to the public.
NOAA’s Digital Coast web map gives you the ability to know exactly where coastal LiDAR is located in the United States. This makes your search for coastal LiDAR data a no-brainer. Go with NOAA.
- Slick web application to search, analyze, and download free LiDAR data.
- Draw the area of interest and click LiDAR data download.
5. National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)
One of the cool things about the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is that they are funded by the National Science Foundation. Another neat thing about NEON is the amazing work they are doing with airborne LiDAR to map out vegetation stands.
All you have to do is go to the NEON Open Data Portal and type in LiDAR in the search field. You’ll get a range of LiDAR products with dates to select from.
Although some of NEON’s data may not have sufficient QA/QC to meet the end user’s needs, we still think NEON’s airborne LiDAR data has some serious potential.
- A minimal selection of LiDAR because in the construction phase.
- Beginning of a collection of publicly available LiDAR.
- Airborne, aquatic and terrestrial LiDAR instruments are available.
6. LIDAR Data Online
Who knows? This may be where the future of LiDAR is going – a global LiDAR map. Don’t laugh. We have the Earth mapped with optical imagery already.
LiDAR Online’s mission is ambitious. No matter where you live, this data source shows you exactly where on Earth is LiDAR. Admittedly, a little bare now in terms of LiDAR sources, LiDAR Online shows a lot of promise.
- LiDAR spans the globe – mostly Europe, North and South America, and Africa.
- Web map with points delineating free LiDAR data sources.
Summary: LiDAR Data Sources
Before reading this article, you probably thought free LiDAR data was hard to come by.
Now, you know it’s not so bad.
We’ve provided you with 6 free LiDAR data source options.
Instantly, you’ve mastered the art of attaining LiDAR point cloud data at no cost.