Free LiDAR Data Sources

LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It is a remote sensing technology that uses laser lights to strike features and then record the pulses generated to create 3D models of the objects. LiDAR data is currently being utilized in a variety of fields including but not limited to agriculture, automobile, and so on. The only problem with LiDAR data is that it is expensive especially when used in a limited environment. It is also difficult to get the LiDAR data for free since there are very few LiDAR data sources that are available for free. This paper outlines some of the best free LiDAR data sources that you can rely on for accurate LiDAR data.


NOAA is an acronym for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is a scientific agency founded in the United States with an aim of collecting data on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere. NOAA is tasked with the responsibility of warning citizens of possible dangerous weather, charts seas, guiding the use and protection of all oceanic coastal resources, and conducts research to provide the understanding and improving the stewardship of the environment. NOAA plays a variety of roles in society, most of which benefit the United States and the entire globe in general. Just to name a few, NOAA is responsible for the supply of environmental information to customers and partners relating to nature and the state of the atmosphere, and the oceans. This is one of the best destinations for any LiDAR data including image and 3D models of the atmosphere and weather warnings.

NOAA is also tasked with the responsibility of protecting marine sanctuaries and other marine endangered species. This is because they have the capability of acquiring the data through marine LiDAR and then translating the data into meaningful information. Most importantly though, NOAA is listed as an important source of accurate and objective scientific information in four specific areas that are considered important on both national and global scales; ecosystems, weather, climate, and commerce.

NOAA mostly provides data concerning the weather conditions and the climatic conditions of a given area including but not limited to the marine and other topographical ecosystems.


2. USGS Earth Explorer

The USGS EarthExplorer is a tool that gives users an opportunity to search, query, and order all satellite images, aerial photographs, and other cartographic data from a number of sources. Besides the data that comes from the Landsat missions and many other different providers, EarthExplorer is now able to give access to MODIS land data products from the NASA Terra and Aqua missions over the United States and from the NASA ASTER mission. Users can register on the Earth Explorer platform and access many features that may be unavailable for the guest users.

The EarthExplorer (EE) user interface is basically an online search and discovery tool that was developed by the U.S Geological Survey, hence USGS. It is capable of searching satellites, aircraft, and several other remote sensing inventories through interactive and textual-based query capabilities. The interface allows users to identify search areas and display datasets. It also makes it possible for users to browse integrated visual services within the interface.


USGS/EROS EarthExplorer Imagery Data and Services

USGS/EROS has managed to digitize more than 6.6 million frames of aerial film creating medium-resolution digital images (400 dpi) and associated browse files for online viewing and have scanned over 4 million of the same frames at 1,000 dpi. Both the medium and high-resolution aerial TIFFs can be downloaded for free from the USGS EarthExplorer website ( ).

Film scan requests (for the film not yet scanned)

Users can make requests for film scans through EarthExplorer after identifying the frame needed.  Customers can also order higher resolution aerial or Declassified images to be scanned for a service fee.

Georeferenced or Geocorrected Scans

The USGS film scans are not georeferenced or geo-corrected.  Film scans are faithful copies of the imagery from the source film. Distortions imposed by the scanners are gotten rid of. However, there is no other correction work that is done in order to geolocate the scanned images to the ground truth. The DOQ (digital ortho quad) and High-Resolution Ortho collections may be another data source to consider if you have this requirement.


CIR (color infrared) film, was originally referred to as a camouflage-detection film. The film differs from other conventional color films because its emulsion layers are sensitive to green, red, and near-infrared radiation. The CIR film is used with a yellow filter to absorb the blue light and provides very sharp images while penetrating haze at high altitudes. Another name given to Color infrared film is false-color film.

Black-and-white panchromatic (B/W) film primarily consists of a black-and-white negative material with a sensitivity range comparable to that of the human eye. It has good contrast and resolution with low graininess and a wide exposure range.

Black-and-white infrared (BIR) film, with some exceptions, is sensitive to the spectral region encompassing 0.4 micrometers to 0.9 micrometers. It is sometimes referred to as near-infrared film because it utilizes only a narrow portion of the total infrared spectrum (0.7 micrometers to 0.9 micrometers).

Natural color film contains three emulsion layers that are sensitive to blue, green, and red (the three primary colors of the visible spectrum). This film usually replicates colors as seen by the human eye. It is also referred to as normal or conventional color film.

3. United States Interagency Elevation Inventory – USIEI

The USIEI project is a collaborative effort between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Geological Survey. The project has also received contributions from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This resource is a comprehensive, nationwide listing of known high-accuracy topographic data, including LIDAR and IfSAR, and bathymetric data, including NOAA hydrographic surveys, multi-beam data, and bathymetric LiDAR. Users intending to acquire any of this data are allowed to register and access the information directly from the website. The topographic information was updated in June 2014. However, there are periodic updates that occur annually which ensures the data remains accurate and up to date. Bathymetric information is current as of November 2012 and will be provided via a service in the near future.

The following data layers are updated annually, with minor updates occurring during the year: topographic LiDAR, topobathy shoreline LiDAR, IfSAR data, and bathymetric LiDAR. The NOAA hydrographic surveys, the multi-beam, and track line bathymetry are provided via a service that is available from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). However, access to the bathymetric data can be directly sourced from the NCEI at The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) dredge surveys are provided via a NOAA MarineCadastre service. A direct link to access the data or information about the contact organization is also available through the inventory.

The information provided for each elevation dataset includes many attributes such as vertical accuracy, point spacing, and date of collection. Also provided are a point of contact for the data and a direct link to access the data, if available.



  • Provides an index of elevation data
  • Includes both topographic and bathymetric data and covers the entire nation
  • Allows users to query by county or zoom to an area of interest and print a report

4. National LiDAR Dataset

A national LIDAR dataset refers to a high-resolution LiDAR dataset comprising most—and ideally all—of a nation’s terrain. It is a compilation of a variety of data regarding the topography of the landscape in basically all States of the United States of America. Datasets of this type typically meet specified quality standards and are publicly available for free (or at nominal cost) in one or more uniform formats from government or academic sources. Any user can be able to download the data from the source and use it for various reasons. National LiDAR datasets are used primarily in LiDAR Contour Mapping, and also for forestry, urban and rural planning, recreational, environmental, engineering, and geological studies and planning, among others.

5. Open Topography

Open Topography facilitates community access to high-resolution, Earth science-oriented, topography data, and related tools and resources. The best thing about Open Topography, even as the name suggests, is the fact that it allows users to register and even upload their data online for others to access. It is an intuitive interface that is pretty easy to use and offers a variety of verified LiDAR data. The Open Topography Facility is based at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego. Because of its wide nature, it is operated in collaboration with other colleagues in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University.

However, Core operational support for Open Topography comes from the National Science Foundation Earth Sciences: Instrumentation and Facilities Program (EAR/IF) and the Office of Cyberinfrastructure. In addition, Open Topography receives funding from the NSF and NASA to support various Open Topography-related research and development activities. The process of accessing data in Open Topography is quite simple as well.

Register as a user

Click on the Red Icon to download LiDAR data

Click on the Dataset name

Go to the “Download and Access” heading in the middle of the page to download the data.


Equipex Geosud project was selected as part of the call for proposals “Equipment of Excellence” in the Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir (large national bond issued in 2011). The project gathers 14 institutional partners. Research, higher education and the public management of the environment and territories are represented by: AgroParisTech, CETE Sud-Ouest, CINES, Cirad, CNRS, IGN, IRD, Irstea (coordinator), Université de Montpellier 2, Université Antilles Guyane and Université de la Réunion. Private partners or associations are also members: AFIGEO, Geomatys, and OZAPP.

GEOSUD website is primarily written in French but can be translated into English with the help of Google Translate. It contains free LiDAR data on different countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and even South America. It is also quite easy to use thanks to its intuitive interface. Once you get to the website, just select your country of choice and the boundary and you will be directed to the next page where you simply click on the data link to download the data.

Equipex Geosud’s initial mission is to develop a national satellite imagery infrastructure to serve the research on the environment and territories and its applications in the management of public policies. It is also open to private partners in partnership with public players or in the frame of outsourcing. The objective is to contribute to the full development of the potential of satellite imagery. Thanks to its repetitive coverage at different resolutions and in different spectral bands, it is a valuable tool for the multi-scale analysis of the structures, the functioning, and the dynamics of the ecosystems and territories. This satellite data infrastructure will also help communities to network and share their experience.

Some of the products and services offered by Geosud include:

  • A satellite data infrastructure that offers free access for the public players: annual satellite coverages of the national territory in summer at high resolution, the imagery on Southern countries, very high-resolution images on areas of interest (cities, coasts,…), other images (radar,…)
  • A satellite data and services’ infrastructure dedicated to the scientific community (data management and computing equipment: scientific software, remote-controlled computing capacity) and connected to the Géoportail and the PTSC portal,
  • Products for methodological and thematic researches on (1) the upstream processing of satellite data flows and (2) on methodological syntheses by large thematic fields. EQUIPEX will play an important role in the development of national products of interest for research and the management of the environment and territories (the mapping of farmland use, landscape mapping, and the mapping of riverside wildlife corridors…),
  • Actions to support the networking of the scientific community and the interested public players (website, annual events, thematic working groups, methodological syntheses, training strategy).


7. LiDAR Online is a web platform that was designed to market LiDAR data, GIS data under login control, and security systems. It is based in Dielmo Server Technology to provide services for displaying, using, and downloading Geospatial data (Point clouds, Raster, Files) on the Internet in an intuitive user interface. The greatest selling point for LiDAR online is its intuitive interface that allows for easy download and registration of users.

Owners of LiDAR or GIS data are allowed to publish their datasets in LiDAR Online whenever they need to perform any private use with security in the access to the data or to obtain datasets by other users. According to the website, “it is the cheaper and faster way to find new clients and to capitalize archive data”

The main purpose of Lidar online is to avail LiDAR data to the entire geospatial community, eliminating all traditional barriers as knowledge, software requirements, or access to the data by making LiDAR data accessible and understandable online.

This solution will open LiDAR data to new markets inside the geospatial community, increasing the number of projects, acquisitions, and solutions related to LiDAR.

The LiDAR directory and the social Network model enable a person to keep the LiDAR community linked and informed about the LiDAR market and its innovations. Furthermore, its intuitive user interface and its web applications enable fast and easy access to any dataset available, contributing to promoting the use of LiDAR data in the entire world.

LiDAR Online is open to all and sundry. Anyone willing to be a part of the geospatial community can easily register and access all LiDAR data online. Just register yourself as a user or company. Both Companies and Users can benefit in a variety of ways:

    • Promote your products and services (software, hardware, mapping services) for free.
    • Publish your datasets for private use or for sale.
    • Be in touch with the LiDAR community.
  • USERS:
    • Find, use and download LiDAR and GIS data with easy tools online.
    • Be in touch with the LiDAR community.

8. National Ecological Observatory Network – NEON

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is a continental-scale ecological observation facility. It is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and operated by Battelle. NEON is tasked with the responsibility of collecting and providing open data that characterize and quantify complex, rapidly changing ecological processes across the United States. The comprehensive data, spatial extent, and remote sensing technology provided by NEON will enable a large and diverse user community to tackle new questions at scales not accessible to previous generations of ecologists. This data is openly accessible to community users and contains information on continental-scale environmental data, Infrastructure for research, and educational tools.

The NEON observatory is designed to collect high-quality, standardized data from 81 field sites across the United States (including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico). Data collection methods are standardized across sites and include in situ instrument measurements, field sampling, and airborne remote sensing. Field sites are strategically selected to represent different regions of vegetation, landforms, climate, and ecosystem performance. NEON data and resources are freely available to enable users to tackle scientific questions at scales not accessible to previous generations of ecologists.



LIPAD is the primary source of LiDAR data that serves the entire Philippines territory. It serves as the primary data access and distribution center of the Phil-LiDAR 1 and Phil-LiDAR 2 Programs, a Department of Science and Technology initiative that engages the University of the Philippines and fifteen Higher Education Institutions throughout the country, with the aim to produce detailed flood hazard and resource maps using LiDAR technology.

The datasets, which include Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), Digital Terrain Models (DTMs), Orthophotos, Classified LAZ, Flood Hazard Maps, and Resource Maps, are available for download in open and GIS-ready formats, for use by Local Government Units (LGUs), National Government Agencies (NGAs), members of the academe, and researchers, among others.

How to get the data:

  • Register
  • Request
  • Download


LiDAR data sources are distributed all over and are available for use by anyone who wishes to access the data. There are several smaller private data sources that also offer important LiDAR data, especially when the need to use them is small scale. Most of the data sources are free and are offered in a community-based platform that gives users the ability to also upload important data regarding a given subject.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.