New Features in LIDAR Server 2020
Author: Martin Flood
Published On: January 18, 2021
LIDAR Server is our enterprise solution for organizations that require local hosting and publishing of their catalog of point cloud data. Unlike our Earth Sensor Portal (ESP), LIDAR Server has no cloud dependencies, making it ideal for scenarios where external cloud-hosting of data is not an option or where the high variable costs associated with unlimited downloading of data make cloud hosting cost-prohibitive compared to hosting your own local servers. It is the preferred solution for organizations that want to maintain control over their server infrastructure. LIDAR Server is built specifically to help such organizations catalog and manage project-level archives of point cloud data on local servers, providing storage, cataloging, and web publication services, along with browser-based visualization and LAS data export/delivery tools (clip-n-ship) for users.
Figure 1 : LIDAR Server Displaying a Portion of USDA Data Catalog
As a locally-hosted data publishing solution, LIDAR Server can easily and cost-effectively provide access to your LIDAR data catalog to a diverse group of stakeholders via the web. In the cases where the point cloud does need to be delivered to the desktop - seeing the data first is still an invaluable advantage of LIDAR Server - LIDAR Server provides intuitive clip-and-ship tools for desktop delivery that will not be a drain on your IT support resources, eliminating the need to clip-and-ship point cloud data and derivative map products on every user request.
In 2020 we added several important new features to LIDAR Server, in addition to our continuous goal of always seeking to improve performance and usability. Notable improvements included:
The new Project Manager interface provides administrators of LIDAR Server installations a suite of new tools to help manage their servers. Using a web dashboard, Administrators can easily review their active catalog, add, remove, or edit published projects to/from the catalog, and add new server instances to scale-up the constellation. An example of the Project Manager Dashboard is shown in below, showing a subset of LIDAR projects hosted in LIDAR Server for USDA.
Figure 2 : Project Manager Dashboard
Project Manager also eliminates the need for manual configuration of various support files used in the LIDAR Server publishing process, allowing for more seamless transfer of projects between your production team and your publishing team. For example, projects can now be pre-configured for publishing on LIDAR Server during production and then easily added to the catalog via the Administrator's dashboard. In addition, the Project Manager allows Administrators to easily mange their Dynamic Metadata tags, another new feature in LIDAR Server 2020.
Dynamic Metadata Tags
A common user request for any LIDAR project that is going to be published in a LIDAR Server catalog is the ability to create and add an organization's unique metadata schema as tags for use in user searches. These tags can be geospatial in nature, for example adding state or county or municipal area identifiers. Or they can be organization/application specific, for example adding watershed boundary hydrological unit designations or contract vehicle identification. Obviously, the value of such tagging increases significantly as the size of your data catalog increases. In LIDAR Server 2020, Administrators can now define and assign their own metadata tags across their catalog, making life much easier for stakeholders querying the server for specific project data.
Standardized Project Metadata
We have also added improved support for publishing and accessing the standard metadata associated with a LIDAR project. This feature was developed in parallel with new developments in LP360 - our desktop point cloud analysis software - that added automatic generation of both project-level and tile-level metadata files for a LAS archive to LP360. If you are using LP360 as your editing tool for point clouds, you can now rapidly generate both project-level and tile-level metadata for a collection of LAS files that can be seamlessly pushed to your LIDAR Server catalog.
Figure 3: Project-Level LAS Metadata Generated in LP360
Automating this metadata generation in LP360 and seamlessly passing this metadata to LIDAR Server is a significant efficiency gain. For example, a recent project we worked on was collected in 2018 in Arizona and had 6,797 tiles of QL2 LAS data. LP360 generated the project-level and the ~6,800 individual tile-level metadata files for posting to LIDAR server in ~60 minutes.
Improved Search Filters
Since publishing your LIDAR data archive is only the first step in making your data catalog accessible, we are always considering ways to make the LIDAR Server user experience better. In 2020 we improved the search filters available in the web client to make user queries much simpler to perform. The new search filters allow the user to quickly narrow down the list of published projects to those that meet their areas of interest.
This includes filtering on any of the new Dynamic Metadata Tags that have been implemented for the catalog.
Map View Enhancements
In 2020 we continued to improve the overall web client experience by enhancing the map view that users interact with in the web client. Improvements included adding the ability to download LAS data by a user-specified area of interest, automatic clipping options for downloads, a fit map display by project boundary option, and a new manual refresh mode for use when displaying large project areas to improve overall performance when modifying the display, for example when toggling between point, TIN or contour displays.
Figure 4 : LIDAR Server Map View of Shelby County, TN
While the industry has made great strides in unlocking the value in LIDAR data collections, we still encounter far too many organizations whose point cloud data remains locked away on external or network drives, inaccessible to most stakeholders or requiring significant IT overhead to manage and provide to users in a timely, efficient manner. With the new improvements to LIDAR Sever in 2020, the ability to leverage your catalog of point cloud data has never been easier. Please contact us if you are interested in standing-up your own LIDAR Server catalog.