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Techniques and Methods 11–B4

National Geospatial Program

Lidar Base Specification Version 1.0

By Hans Karl Heidemann

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (10.9 MB)Abstract

Following the 2008 National Lidar Initiative meeting in Reston, Virginia, and realizing the importance of and the growing diversity within our Nation’s lidar data holdings, then U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Director Mark Myers commissioned the development of a set of lidar standards. The following year, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) provided the National Geospatial Program (NGP) with significant funding for lidar data collection to enhance the National Elevation Dataset. The requirement for the NGP to collect and assimilate the unprecedented volume of lidar data in a short period of time proved the need for a common specification and standard. Through extensive collaboration with lidar experts within the NGP, the USGS as a whole, the National Digital Elevation Program, and private industry, the 12th draft of the specification was incorporated into the ARRA Lidar Program Announcement. A 13th and final draft was released to the public at the International Lidar Mapping Forum (ILMF) in 2010. That document has become the foundation of lidar specifications worldwide and has been adopted, in large part, by numerous USGS programs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and other U.S. Federal agencies.

The NGP Lidar Base Specification Version 1.0 is the official publication of what is widely known as “the v13 Spec.” It has been completely reformatted and re-edited, and now includes a glossary, a metadata template, and a metadata example file. The substantive content, however, is unchanged from the version 13 draft. Lidar continues to be a rapidly evolving technology, and the NGP anticipates periodic future revisions to this document as changes in the technology, data, applications, and program requirements dictate.

First posted August 17, 2012

For additional information contact:
Director, Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
U.S. Geological Survey
47914 252nd Street
Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57198

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Suggested citation:

Heidemann, Hans Karl, 2012, Lidar base specification version 1.0: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods, book 11, chap. B4, 63 p.


Introductory Material


Data Processing and Handling



References Cited



Appendix 1. Common Data Upgrades

Appendix 2. Guidelines

Appendix 3. Hydro-Flattening Reference

Appendix 4. Lidar Metadata Example

Appendix 5. Lidar Metadata Template

Supplemental Information

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