The delivery, exchange, analysis and manipulation of lidar data between data providers, data analysts and data users has been identified as an area where substantial improvements could be made by the adoption of an industry-wide binary data format. Such a format has been proposed by a group of industry stakeholders including Z/I Imaging, EnerQuest, Optech, Leica GeoSystems and the US Army Topographic Engineering Center.
The LAS file format is a public file format for the interchange of LIDAR data between vendors and customers. This binary file format is an alternative to proprietary systems or a generic ASCII file interchange system used by many companies. A problem with proprietary systems is that data cannot be easily taken from one system or process flow to another. In addition, processing performance is degraded because the reading and interpretation of ASCII elevation data can be very slow and the file size can be extremely large, even for small amounts of data. This can be a significant barrier for first-time users of lidar data. Another problem is that all raw data and information specific to the LIDAR data collection is lost. This can inhibit troubleshooting and debugging of problem data sets and limit third-party analysis of data integrity. The .LAS file format is intended to address many of these issues. It is a binary file format that maintains information specific to the LIDAR nature of the data while not being overly complex.
ASPRS strongly supports the adoption of such a standard and encourages all stakeholders to review the details of the .LAS format and provide review and feedback.
Further details are available at www.lasformat.org