What is Lidar data and where can I download it?

Lidar data are available through The National Map Download Client. Click the “How To” link at the top of the viewer for detailed instructions on how to find and download data.  

Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) is a technology similar to RADAR that can be used to create high-resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) with vertical accuracy as good as 10 cm.

LIDAR equipment, which includes a laser scanner, a Global Positioning System (GPS), and an Inertial Navigation System (INS), is generally mounted on a small aircraft. The laser scanner transmits brief laser pulses to the ground surface, from which they are reflected or scattered back to the laser scanner. Detecting the returning pulses, the equipment records the time that it took for them to go from the laser scanner to the ground and back. The distance between the laser scanner and the ground is then calculated based on the speed of light.

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What types of elevation datasets are available, what formats do they come in, and where can I download?

Digital elevation data are available through The National Map Download Client . Click the “How To” link at the top of the viewer for detailed instructions on how to find and download data. The 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) products and services available through The National Map consist of standard digital elevation models (DEMs) at various...

What is the coverage of standard 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) DEMs?

The area of coverage of any particular standard 3DEP DEM product is generally determined by the availability of source elevation data of similar or higher resolution. For example, the 1/3 arc-second layer is available for only portions of Alaska where higher resolution lidar or ifsar elevation sources exist. The 1/9 arc-second layer is available...

Is there a difference between 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) DEM data and lidar data?

Yes, lidar data are represented as a cloud of variably spaced point locations (x,y,z) of any terrestrial target reflecting the laser pulse. In addition to bare-earth, the point cloud will typically include buildings, trees, towers, and powerlines. 3DEP DEMs are raster surfaces of bare-earth elevation values sampled at uniform horizontal increments...

How can I download 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) standard DEM data in bulk?

1. To request bulk elevation data, please email tnminfo@usgs.gov and provide the following: Your contact information (address, phone number, and email address). Product(s) you are requesting. Requested data format(s). 2. An email will be sent to you containing the following information: Job ID Number. Size estimates for requested data. External...
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Date published: February 7, 2019

USGS 3DEP Lidar Point Cloud Now Available as Amazon Public Dataset

The USGS 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) is excited to announce the availability of a new way to access and process lidar point cloud data from the 3DEP repository.

Date published: June 26, 2018

The 3D Elevation Program Distributing Lidar Data in LAZ Format

In support of ongoing efforts to provide efficient, cloud ready, open data formats for the use of lidar data, the USGS National Geospatial Program and its associated 3D Elevation Program is transitioning all of its lidar data distribution files to LAZ format by September 30, 2018.

Date published: January 24, 2017

Maps Made with Light Show the Way

The topic, officially, was water. But during a scientific conference in Butte, Montana, in 2013, earthquake expert Michael Stickney glimpsed something unexpected in a three-dimensional lidar image of the Bitterroot Valley in nearby Missoula.

Date published: March 24, 2016

3D Elevation – We’ve Got You Covered in all 50 States

How 3D Elevation Can Benefit Each State and Puerto Rico

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A comparison of an air photo and a lidar image of an area along Secondary Road and Camp Creek
April 14, 2016

Comparison Lidar and Air Photo

A comparison of an air photo and a lidar image of an area along Secondary Road and Camp Creek, 12 miles north of John Day, OR. The lidar image allows identification of landslide activity that is otherwise masked by trees. (Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries).

video thumbnail: Elevation
April 30, 2012

Elevation

The National Elevation Dataset (NED) is the primary elevation data product produced and distributed by the USGS National 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). The NED provides seamless raster elevation data of the conterminous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and the island territories. The NED is derived from diverse source data sets that are processed to a specification with a

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video thumbnail: Using bare-earth LiDAR imagery to reveal the Tahoe - Sierra frontal fault zone Lake Tahoe, California.
September 29, 2008

Using bare-earth LiDAR imagery to reveal the Tahoe - Sierra frontal fault zone Lake Tahoe, California.

This video provides a visual example of how airborne LiDAR (Light D
etection And Ranging) imagery penetrates dense forest cover to reveal
an active fault line not detectable with conventional aerial
photography. The video shows an aerial perspective of the range front
Mt. Tallac fault, which is one of five active faults that traverse

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Attribution: Natural Hazards