I am doing a project where I need to simulate LIDAR data, and I am looking for specifications on how raw LIDAR data looks.

I want the format of the data before it is translated to x, y and z coordinates (using GPS, IMU etc.), i.e., I imagine each data point having a direction and a distance (or time-of-flight).

I have not been able to find this anywhere, every source reference raw data given in x, y and z coordinates in some form.

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    For true raw data, as in right from the collector before any processing... you'll need to look to manufacturer specs, because it varies between devices as does the pattern of collection. Otherwise you're probably looking at the Common Lidar Data Exchange Format (LAS) (specification here), which has x,y,z. These guys make software for specific model scanners. – Chris W Feb 22 '15 at 19:18
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    "raw" data also needs pitch, yaw, sideline distortion (smiley-face) and scatter corrections. This is not trivial, are you sure that you want to simulate raw data? – Jeffrey Evans Feb 23 '15 at 0:50
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    What kind of sensor collected the data in question? Some manufacturers (e.g. Optech) provide IMU/GNSS information with scan angles and ranges, which seems like the information that you want. – Pete Gadomski Feb 23 '15 at 13:25

I am looking for specifications on how raw LIDAR data looks.

There are still no specifications about how airborne LiDAR data should be collected and processed, but only how point clouds should be delivered (the .las format from ASPRS). Hence, one way out is to ask directly to a manufacturer as suggested by Chris W.

The thorny problem of LiDAR specifications post by Robert A. Fowler (2001) makes a summary about what are the challenges and barriers to generate such specifications.

An airborne LiDAR system is basically made of four components: GNSS (in the aircraft and in the ground); a highly sensitive IMU; the laser sensor itself; and a computer to control the system and store data (Reutebuch et al., 2005). Therefore, in order to simulate airborne LiDAR data one would need to generate and combine data outputted from the former three components.

The work of Baltsavias (1999): Airborne laser scanning: basic relations and formulas can be a starting point to your project as it mathematically details how an airborne laser sensor works.

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