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Point clouds

Point cloud data is a collection of spatial points that are represented as X-, Y-, and Z-coordinates. The data can be used to define a 3D surface that can be used for various purposes, including mapping features such as terrain, buildings, roads, and other features. Point cloud data can be collected using a variety of methods, including airborne lidar, terrestrial lidar, and photogrammetry. Point cloud data can be used in ArcGIS to create accurate 3D models of features, which can be used to generate high-resolution maps and perform analysis or to create digital terrain models (DTM) or digital surface models (DSM) based on point cloud data.


First, ensure that the point cloud data is in a compatible file format for ArcGIS. This can typically be done by obtaining the data from a government agency or commercial data provider, or by creating it yourself using Esri's reality mapping software.

ArcGIS supports point cloud data provided as ASCII, LAS, Optimized LAS (.ZLAS) or LAZ files. LAZ files need to be converted first before you can work with them in ArcGIS Pro.

Typically, you start by bringing the point cloud data into ArcGIS Pro as a LAS dataset layer which allows you to visualize, investigate and classify the point cloud data. You can also use it to produce elevation layers, extract building footprint and/or powerlines from the point cloud data. A LAS dataset stores reference to one or more LAS files on disk and to additional surface features. Depending on your needs you might use the point cloud data in a mosaic dataset.

It's recommended to use a point cloud scene layer if you need to work with point cloud data on the web. This layer type is optimized for displaying and sharing many kinds of sensor data, including lidar. You can build point cloud scene layers directly from a LAS dataset layer, and they support sharing 3D point cloud content across ArcGIS. You create point cloud scene layers by generating a scene layer package on disk and publishing it as a scene service onArcGIS Enterprise or ArcGIS Online. Optionally, you can preview the scene layer package as a layer directly in ArcGIS Pro.


Data preparation, quality control, ability to analyze and share point cloud data for visualization on the web are important things to consider when working with this type of data in ArcGIS. We recommend reading the detailed description of best practices for managing lidar point clouds and derived products before importing your point cloud data

Required software

To create and edit mosaic datasets, you'll need ArcGIS Pro Standard. To manage point clouds using LAS datasets, you'll needArcGIS Pro Standard with ArcGIS 3D Analyst. You may also want to use ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise to share point clouds as 3D scene services.

Explore the following resources to learn more about bringing point cloud data into ArcGIS.

ArcGIS help documentation

Reference material for ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Enterprise:

ArcGIS blogs, story maps and technical papers

Supplemental guidance about concepts, software functionality, and workflows:


Esri-produced videos that clarify and demonstrate concepts, software functionality, and workflows:


Guided, hands-on lessons based on real-world problems:

ArcGIS solutions

Industry-specific configurations for ArcGIS:

Developer resources

Resources and support for automating and customizing workflows:

Esri community

Online places for the Esri community to connect, collaborate, and share experiences: