The @safesoftware FME Webinar Recap – Safe Software and Working With LiDAR Data

Safe Software has continued with their deliver of fine online training, this time via a session on March 8 titled "How to Prepare LIDAR Data to Meet Your Requirements". 

The session was designed to introduce users and potential users of Safe Software’s FME solutions as they apply to LiDAR data. Designed for anyone, the training really was quite useful for anyone, regardless of experience with FME or with LiDAR data for that matter, however, the experienced FME user would have likely taken a little more away from the session. Nonetheless, getting to listen to Dale Lutz for 30-40 minutes is always a treat (and fun) so Safe scores big points regardless!

With the use of LiDAR data soaring in popularity, there’s no wonder that this session was popular and attended well, no doubt you’ll also be hearing much more about LiDAR in the coming weeks as conference season kicks off with events like ASPRS, IGARSS (http://www.igarss12.org/), ISPRS and more – there’s even a new, dedicated web and print magazine specifically about LiDAR at LiDARnews.com

Obviously, the focus of Dale’s webinar was to discuss how user’s of LiDAR can leverage FME 2012 and Safe’s Solutions to better manage and work with their data. It became evident right from the get go when Dale launched right into a live demo that showed off the nifty model-builder style graphic UI for inspecting a using the FME "data inspector". This enabled his to quickly inspect a LiDAR xyz file. Simply put he pointed to a directory, selected all the required XYZ data files, connected these input files to an output location and ran the model, resulting in a folder that contained the LAS files. Lutz noted that anything you run in FME can be run over and over again in batch mode later. LAter in the session Lutz build a pretty detailed model showing off some of the possible tasks (See image below)


I had to chuckle when Dale pointed out so casually that LiDAR and point clouds are really "rasters gone wild" – so true – and then commented on some typical misbehaviors of LiDAR data that make them a little tricky for folks:

  • huge data volumes
  • irregular spacing – makes it tough to answer questions quickly
  • multiple returns at same point
  • many measurements per return


A quickie poll of the webinar attendees asked what do you need to do with LiDAR?
Some of the common responses were: to reproject, create subsets, tile data, create a surface (dem, contour), translate to another format.


Attendees were later asked, What data formats are you working with?
Common responses were: LAS, E57, oracle spatial, LASzip, ascixyz – Most indicated they work with LAS (52%) and ASCII XYZ 43%

Discussions rolled into the FME workbench. Using the workbench LiDAR users can accomplish the following:

  • Cubic Clipping – 3D clipping routine
  • Point cloud thinning (removes data)
  • surface modeling
  • Split scenes
  • Colorization
  • extents calculation


Some interesting tidbits in the sessions:

  • BlueMarble reprojection is being brought into FME!
  • Many users realize up to 10X compression with their LAS files
  • Safe once had a contest to pick a name for a Library, the winner was to call it "The Library"!
  • Added support for LiDAR in ArcGIS 10.1
  • Option to create a .lasd file for quick use in ArcGIS 10.1


Overall Lutz and crew accomplished a fair bit in a little over 30 minutes. I highly suggest anyone working with or considering working with large amounts of LiDAR data to consider investigating how FME can help. Lutz also suggested that advanced users might also consider c hecking out the article they have published on Parallel Processing – This article speaks about parallel processing in FME and explores several ways of using it including such operations as buffering and clipping as well as surface modeling and point cloud manipulations See http://fme.ly/parallel

More information will also be available in the coming FME World Tour – a series of events, perhaps coming to a city near you! Of note, the Vancouver World Tour, April 27, will be livestreamed from Vancouver! See all the dates at http://fme.safe.com/content/FME-2012-World-Tour

For more info of Safe Software webinars and the archived sessions see http://fme.ly/archive 

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Editor (18230 Posts)

Glenn is a geographer and a GIS professional with over 20 years experience in the industry. He's the co-founder of GISuser and several other technology web publications.


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