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Is there an easy path to visualizing LIDAR data in QGIS?

I have some USGS LIDAR data in .las format downloaded from http://lidar.cr.usgs.gov/. This means I have both the .las and metadata in .xml format. I am aware liblas, but not how to apply it to this task. I am running on Ubuntu 11.04 with QGIS 1.7.0-Wroclaw.

A similar question for ArcGIS is: How to convert LAS to GRID/Raster for ArcGIS input?. I just need to get a sense of this data and the registration. Conversion to a DEM would be OK if I can visualize it.

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The lasview.exe tool (README) that Bryce mentioned has a shorter LAStools.org URL now ... (-: – Martin Isenburg Feb 13 '12 at 13:05

GRASS has a documentation section on LiDAR in their wiki. Give it a read; you can use libLAS to import into GRASS, and then use many of the GRASS tools once it's in there.

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Is there anything more digested or step-by-step? There are a lot of gaps to bridge there... – Bryce Jan 27 '12 at 1:53
    
So far I'm having some good results with lasview.exe from cs.unc.edu/~isenburg/lastools , which is at least letting me verify the data is reasonably good. – Bryce Jan 27 '12 at 2:03
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GRASS 7 is offering v.in.lidar: grass.osgeo.org/grass70/manuals/html70_user/v.in.lidar.html – markusN Jan 27 '12 at 16:07
    
Hi Bryce, I don't know of anything more 'digested' and am far from a LiDAR expert. I suspect you should be able to piece some of that stuff together and at least get started, learning the rest as you go. – Darren Cope Jan 27 '12 at 19:13
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Lastools are a great candidate to be added to the QGIS processing framework. Anyone interested in supporting its implementation? – Giovanni Manghi Feb 13 '12 at 14:09

There is a LAS toolbox for QGIS. However, a better alternative for Linux/Unix systems is the open-source library SPDLib. SPDLib can process the LAS files (discrete-return and full-waveform), and create DTM/DSM's from the point cloud.

To view the point cloud, the .las file must be converted to an SPD file (using the spdtranslate function), which can then be opened in SPD3DPointsViewer. The viewer itself also runs on Windows.

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Use Point Cloud VIZ 2.1 where you will be able to import and export the lidar. Exporting the lidar has 2 options. The bare earth option, or all points options. Once exported you can import the *.vrt file in QGIS. The data will come as a geotiff where you will be able to manipulate further (contour, shade, etc.)

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Additional alternatives to visualize LiDAR point data or LiDAR DEMs within QGIS were also reported in the following posts:

Additionally, the following question asks for ongoing efforts in allowing LiDAR .las files to be visualized in the 2D main window in QGIS.

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