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Other Names:

Light Detection and Ranging
Laser altimetry
Airborne laser swath mapping (ALSM)
LIDAR contour mapping

Agency/Company Operating the Sensor



LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a method of detecting information from a distant target using the properties of scattered light. A LIDAR sensor sends out laser pulses and measures the time taken for the signal to reflect back to the sensor to determine the distance to the target. It is similar in principle to RADAR, which uses radio waves of a much longer wavelength compared to LIDAR. LIDAR sensors are attached to aircraft and provide high quality, high resolution information about surface topography and surface features. It has been used successfully in rangelands to map land surface features such as vegetation, topography, erosion features, and surface roughness. It has also been used in forest ecosystems to characterize height, canopy structure, leaf area index (LAI) and biomass.

Similar Sensors


Sensor Specifications

Spectral Bands/Wavelengths

Edit the following table or delete it and provide a description of spectral characteristics

Band Resolution Wavelength µm
1 30m 0.45-0.52
2 30m 0.53-0.61
3 30m 0.63-0.69
4 30m 0.78-0.90
5 30m 1.55-1.75
6 60m 10.4-12.5
7 30m 2.09-2.35
8 15m 0.52-0.90

Image footprint or swath width


Image resolution



LIDAR sensors are attached to aircraft, and therefore they are not dependent on a set return interval like satellite-based sensors.

Cost, Acquisition, Licensing

Cost, acquisition procedures, and licensing of LIDAR images will vary depending on the source.

Image format

Examples of Rangeland Uses

  • Rango et al. (2000) assessed changes in topography and shrub morphology resulting from a shift from grassland to shrubland vegetation using LIDAR technology
  • Ritchie et al. (1992) used LIDAR to measure shrub cover and distribution in a south Texas rangeland
  • Ritchie et al. (1993 and 1995) used LIDAR to map erosional features such as gully cross-sections

Software/Hardware Requirements

Any special (or helpful) software or hardware requirements for using this kind of imagery (e.g., converters for reading NASA HDF format and saving data to a more user-friendly format)

Sample Image

(source: Hunt et al. 2003)

LIDAR image (right) compared to an aerial photograph (left) of a coastline, showing the fine-scale topographic variations detectable using LIDAR (source: NASA)

Additional Information


  • Glenn, N.F., D.R. Streuker, D.J. Chadwick, G.D. Thackray, and S.J. Dorsch. 2006. Analysis of LiDAR-derived topographic information for characterizing and differentiating landslide morphology and activity. Geomorphology 73: 131-148.
  • Hunt, Jr. E.R., J.H. Everitt, J.C. Ritchie, M.S. Moran, D.T. Booth, G.L. Anderson, P.E. Clark, and M.S. Seyfried. 2003. Applications and Research Using Remote Sensing for Rangeland Management. Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing 69: 675–693.
  • Mundt, J.T., D.R. Streuker, and N.F. Glenn. 2006. Mapping Sagebrush Distribution Using Fusion of Hyperspectral and Lidar Classifications. Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing 72: 47–54.
  • Rango, A., Chopping, M., Ritchie, J., Havstad, K., Kustas, W., and Schmugge, T. 2000. Morphological characteristics of shrub coppice dunes in desert grasslands of southern New Mexico derived from scanning LIDAR. Remote Sensing of Environment. 74: 26-44.
  • Ritchie, J.C., J.H. Everitt, D.E. Escobar, T.J. Jackson, and M.R. Davis. 1992. Airborne Laser Measurements of Rangeland Canopy Cover and Distribution. Journal of Range Management 45: 189-193.
  • Ritchie, J.C., T.J. Jackson, E.H. Grissinger, J.B. Murphey, J.D. Garbrecht, J.H. Everitt, D.E. Escobar, M.R. Davis, and M.A. Weltz. 1993. Airborne altimeter measurements of landscape properties, Hydrological Sciences Journal, 38: 403–416.
  • Ritchie, J.C., K.S. Humes, and M.A. Weltz. 1995. Laser altimeter measurements at Walnut Gulch Watershed, Arizona, Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 50: 440–442.


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remote_sensor_types/lidar.txt · Last modified: 2013/02/12 11:12 by gtucker