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Managing lidar data

There are three overall requirements for managing aerial lidar—deriving elevation surfaces from 3D lidar points; managing point clouds and elevation rasters; and facilitating quick access to all that data for end users.

In most organizations, managing lidar data is part of a larger data management effort that includes elevation data. Nearly all lidar projects need to derive elevation surfaces from 3D points, including bare-earth digital terrain models (DTMs) and first-return digital surface models (DSMs). The elevation data within an organization will typically come from many different projects, in some cases with the same area covered by multiple data collections, which can pose data management difficulties.

After lidar has been processed into rasters, end users often need to access the data quickly to visualize elevation surfaces as a hillshade or slope, or to use the raster surfaces for fast viewshed and volumetric analysis.

Alternatively, some projects will require analyzing lidar data in 3D-point format. In this case, users may need to access lidar point clouds directly, either as services or as downloadable data. It may also be possible to serve geoprocessing tools that utilize the underlying 3D points in an analysis task and return only the required results to the user.

To meet these requirements, some or all of the following steps are commonly used to manage and share lidar data using ArcGIS:

  1. Manage your separate lidar collections using LAS datasets
  2. Perform quality control (QC) checks to verify the lidar data
  3. Determine parameters to create raster files
  4. Create derived raster surfaces for visualization and analysis
  5. Create mosaic datasets to manage and serve the rasters
  6. Share the lidar points for visualization on the web
  7. Enable download of the lidar point files
  8. Build and share geoprocessing services for server-side analysis

Explore the following resources to learn more about managing aerial lidar data in ArcGIS. (Not sure where to start? Look for the star by Esri's most helpful resources.)

To create and edit mosaic datasets, you'll need ArcGIS Pro Standard. To manage lidar using LAS datasets, you'll need ArcGIS 3D Analyst. If your organization will serve elevation rasters as dynamic image services, you'll need ArcGIS Image Server. Alternatively, you may wish to use ArcGIS Online to share cached elevation data as elevation surfaces suitable for visualization. You may also want to use ArcGIS Online to share point clouds as 3D scene services; hillshade views of DSM or DTM elevation tiles; or feature classes that can be used to explore and download hillshade tiles or lidar data.

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