I apologize for not knowing all the proper terminology to ask this question. I am seeking a commercial service for providing pay-per-use high resolution elevation data in North America. It must come with defined ToS (terms of service -- a guarantee of availability). A paid service is best.

The ideal service would return a chunk of elevation data, perhaps in ARC/INFO ASCII GRID format, on demand. Ideally this grid would be seamlessly centered on a given coordinate. For this application I need a regular grid of elevation points perhaps 2000 or 3000 grid elements in the x and y direction (if the data returned were richer LIDAR data, I would need to interpolate into a grid using las2dem or some such).

I am aware of scattered sources of free LIDAR elevation data:

  1. http://lidar.cr.usgs.gov/
  2. http://www.opentopography.org/
  3. http://calm.geo.berkeley.edu/ncalm/ddc.html

I'm seeking something that is (a) offering wider coverage with less hassle (b) a web service returning data in close to real time (c) supplying seamless data centered on a point on earth, rather than tiles (d) commercially usable and supported with terms of service (e) command line scriptable (e.g. using wget or other scriptable tools outside of a GIS). For example:

wget http://ppv.example.org?lat=37.1234&lon=-122.1234

Is this a crazy desire, or is there something that fits the bill?

Possible question keywords: WFS, web service,hosted LIDAR data server

  • If such a service existed (web service returning LIDAR points) would there be demand for it? As a paid service? A free service?
    – Bryce
    Feb 7, 2012 at 19:17
  • This probably only fits a few of your requirements (specifically you would have to supply your own LiDAR data), but QCoherent has a product called LiDAR Server that may be of interest.
    – blah238
    Feb 7, 2012 at 20:21
  • By "close to real time" do you mean data that is constantly updated for a given area? I'm not sure that any LIDAR data continually refreshed (currently), except in very small study areas, due to costs. So I think part B over a wide area is not possible today.
    – user3461
    Feb 10, 2012 at 15:14
  • By "real time" I mean I can query the lidar database and get data back in a few seconds. I'm not expecting that involves flying aircraft :-). Of course the data should come with metadata giving the sample date(s) for the region returned.
    – Bryce
    Feb 12, 2012 at 6:15

2 Answers 2


Intermap have national coverage of DSM data available via Terrain on Demand. It reportedly offers OGC compliant access on a commercial basis.

ESRI also have a beta program offering a global mosaic of elevation datasets, some at 1m resolution. http://help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#/What_are_the_World_Elevation_services/009t00000244000000/

  • 1
    Yes, they are the only vendor providing a service like this that I have seen too; and they have a huge investment in the data and services that provides a great value; the cost can be high but the ROI is good.
    – D.E.Wright
    Feb 7, 2012 at 22:44
  • I read this in Forbes: Then Levine heard Microsoft was compiling a half-meter-resolution model of the entire country--by far the most ambitious surface map ever assembled. Levine visited the project's headquarters in Boulder, Colo., where three air-conditioned trailers filled with computers gnaw on 16 petabytes of data (1,600 times the size of the Library of Congress' printed collection).
    – Bryce
    Feb 14, 2012 at 6:56
  • That's on target... but is it really the only answer?
    – Bryce
    Feb 14, 2012 at 8:30

This Doesn't exist. I just wrote an article for LiDAR News about this very topic.


This is the closest thing that you will find that meets your request.


Shoot me an email if you want to talk further, if you have funds, maybe we can work together to develop this into a service?

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