9 Free LiDAR viewers

LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It is the technology used to measure various attributes of an object or a phenomenon. It employs the use of pulses to collect the specific attributes of an object including its distance on the earth’s surface and the shapes. LiDAR data requires some special software to read and interpret because of the complexities of the datasets. Below are some of the LiDAR viewers available.

1. BCAL LiDAR Tools (http://bcal.geology.isu.edu/Envitools.shtml)

The BICAL LiDAR tools are open source tools that were developed by Boise Center Aerospace Laboratory at Idaho State University. The tools are designed for use in the processing and analysis of all LiDAR data. The primary programing language used in these tools is the IDL Programming language. They are also intended to be used as add-ons in the INVI remote sensing software package.


2. FugroViewer (http://www.fugroviewer.com/)

FugroViewer is one of the simplest yet robust LiDAR viewers that are designed to help users make the most of the spatial datasets. The LiDAR viewer was developed to be used with a number of raster and vector datasets and all other geospatial datasets including those from photogrammetric and IfSAR sources. FugroViewer is easy to use and provides users with an intuitive interface that is quite easy to understand and manipulate.


3. FUSION/LDV (http://forsys.cfr.washington.edu/fusion/fusionlatest.html)

FUSION is a software suite that is used to convert, analyze and display all LiDAR data at your disposal. It allows 3-dimensional terrain and canopy surface models and other LiDAR datasets to be merged with the traditional 2D imagery such as topographic maps, imagery, and other GIS data. With FUSION, you can be able to process raw data and generate more meaningful information matrices such as canopy models and ground-level surface models.


4. LASTools (http://lastools.org)

LASTool is basically a collection or a blend of command-line tools that are designed to be used for classifying, triangulating, and clipping LiDAR data for the benefit of the users. The beauty with LASTools is that they can also be used on Graphical User Interface and are available as a package for all LiDAR processing purposes in various versions.


5. MCC – LiDAR (http://sourceforge.net/projects/mcclidar/)

MCC – LiDAR is a programming application presented in C++ format used in the analysis and presentation of LiDAR data in forested environments. It is designed to classify data points as either ground or non-ground with the help of the Multiscale Curvature Classification (MCC) algorithm. MCC – LiDAR requires some level of programming understanding in order to process and interpret any LiDAR data. For this reason, it is mainly applicable in situations where 3D modeling is required.


6. Merrick’s Mars Viewer (http://www.merrick.com/index.php/geospatial/services-gss/mars-software)

Merricks’s Mars Viewer is the name given to this open-source LiDAR viewer that is used for the navigation of 3D visualization. It is mainly used in cases where 3D visualization is important. However, because of its simplistic interface and ease of use, it does not require special skills to use to interpret data. It is therefore ideal for use by casual users and not by professionals seeking to analyze complex LiDAR data.


7. Online LiDAR Viewer (http://www.merrick.com/index.php/geospatial/services-gss/mars-software)

The Online LiDAR viewer is the simplest software used to read and interpret LiDAR data. It is basic in principle and supports very basic LiDAR navigation capabilities. It is best used for casual LiDAR manipulation purposes thanks to its simplistic and intuitive interface. It supports 3D visualization and is available for free. Online LiDAR viewer can be accessed free online and is recommended for use casually and not professionally.


8. Quick Terrain Reader (http://appliedimagery.com/download)

The Quick Terrain Reader is a free open-source software for reading and analyzing Lidar datasets. It is used mainly for visualizing point clouds and pre-built digital elevation models (DEMs). It is fast and can be applied in both casual and professional analysis environments.


9. ENVI LiDAR (http://www.harrisgeospatial.com/docs/IntroductionLidar.html )

ENVI stands for Environment for Visualizing Images is one the most popular software for remote sensing. It is used by most remote sensing experts but not for GIS. ENVI LiDAR lets you create 3D visualizations and easily extract important features and products from raw LiDAR point cloud data.

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