Top LiDAR tools for geospatial professionals


LiDAR technology is a proven method for acquiring accurate digital terrain model data and associated imagery under a wide range of conditions.

LiDAR offers many advantages over traditional methods for representing a terrain surface. The advantages include accuracy, cost, and resolution. One most attractive characteristics of LiDAR is its very high vertical accuracy which enables it to represent the Earth’s surface with high accuracy.

The LiDAR raw data include everything on the ground, such as buildings, telephone poles, power lines, and even birds. Laser returns are recorded no matter what target the laser happens to strike.

This post will briefly introduce a few more commonly used software, specifically designed for processing and analyzing LiDAR and remote sensing. Let’s take a look.

1. LAStools

LAStools are the fastest and most memory-efficient solution for batch-scripted multi-core LiDAR processing. They can turn billions of LiDAR points into valuable products at blazing speeds and with low memory requirements. LAStools offer every tool needed, from raw data processing to analysis and variable extraction. They run on the command line and provide a graphical user interface (GUI) for those not comfortable with command lines and batch scripting. Every tool (e.g., las2DTM or las2txt) comes with its own README file, which tells in principle what the device is used for and how it is used (inputs, outputs, parameters, etc.).

2. Fusion

The Silviculture and Forest Models Team, Research Branch of the US Forest Service, developed Fusion, a LiDAR viewing, and analysis software tool. Fusion also works with terrain data sets and IFSAR. A laser sensor with a transmitter and receiver, a geodetic-quality Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, and an Inertial Navigation System (INS) unit are used in LiDAR. The laser sensor is attached to the aircraft’s underside. Once in the air, the sensor emits rapid pulses of infrared laser light used to calculate ranges to terrain points.


OPALS stands for Orientation and Processing of Airborne Laser Scanning data. Researchers at Vienna University of Technology built by researchers a modular program system consisting of small components (modules) grouped together thematically in packages. It provides a complete processing chain for processing airborne laser scanning data (waveform decomposition, quality control, georeferencing, structure line extraction, point cloud classification, DTM generation) and several fields of application like forestry, hydrography, city modeling, and power lines).

4. Quantum GIS (QGIS)

Quantum GIS, or QGIS, is a free and open-source geographic information system. Licensed under the GNU General Public License, it is one of the most popular open-source GIS programs. QGIS processes LiDAR data via the LAS Tools software that can be installed as its own toolbox. The Open Source Geospatial Foundation has designated QGIS as an official project (OSGeo). It supports a wide range of vector, raster, and database formats and functions and runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OSX, Windows, and Android.


ENVI has a range of functionality for GIS and remote sensing analyses in addition to its utility for processing and analyzing LiDAR datasets. ENVI is the industry standard for image processing and analysis, developed by Idaho State University. Image analysts, GIS professionals, and scientists use it to extract timely, accurate, and reliable data from geospatial imagery. It’s backed by science, simple to use, and tightly integrated with Esri’s ArcGIS platform. ENVI makes deep learning accessible to the general public through user-friendly tools and workflows that do not necessitate programming. ENVI can also be customized to meet specific project requirements using an API and visual programming environment.

6. ArcGIS

ESRI’s ArcGIS is one of the most widely used GIS software with unique capabilities and flexible licensing for applying location-based analytics to your business practices. It has its own tools for handling, processing, and analyzing LiDAR datasets. ArcGIS reads LAS files natively, allowing you to access lidar data right away without having to convert or import data. Lidar data in the form of LAS (or ASCII) files are supported by ArcGIS. The LAS dataset, terrain dataset, and mosaic dataset are three different formats (datasets) used to manage and work with your lidar data in ArcGIS, depending on your needs. In 2D and 3D, LAS attributes can be used to filter out content and symbolize points.


ERDAS IMAGINE is a widely used remote sensing software that also offers tools for LiDAR. It provides genuine value, consolidating remote sensing, photogrammetry, LiDAR analysis, basic vector analysis, and radar processing into a single product. ERDAS IMAGINE simplifies image classification and segmentation, orthorectification, mosaicking, reprojection, elevation extraction, and image interpretation. It offers K-Means, ISODATA, object-based image segmentation, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning Artificial Intelligence algorithms.

8. FugroViewer

FugroViewer is a powerful, easy-to-use freeware designed to help users make the most of their geospatial data. It is a fast and easy-to-use tool for visualizing LiDAR data, developed for use with various raster- and vector-based geospatial datasets, including photogrammetric, lidar, and IFSAR sources. FugroViewer can read files up to six times larger, with improved graphics handling to decrease data rendering and increase efficiency. FugroViewer now supports the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing’s (ASPRS) latest LAS 1.4 open file format for lidar data storage and delivery.


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