New binary data exchange format is intended to serve as an industry standard for the exchange of lidar data among manufacturers, data providers and end users.

ASPRS announced the approval and official release of the ASPRS Lidar Data Exchange Format Standard at its recent 69th Annual ASPRS Conference and Exhibition held in Anchorage, Alaska in May. This new binary data exchange format is intended to serve as an industry standard for the exchange of lidar data between various hardware manufacturers, software developers, data providers and end users. It was originally developed by a consortium of industry partners (Z/I Imaging, EnerQuest, Sanborn, US Army Corps of Engineers, Optech and Leica GeoSystems) and is intended to make the exchange, manipulation, analysis and storage of lidar data faster and easier.

The new binary data exchange format is a public binary file format that is a replacement for the proprietary systems or a generic ASCII file interchange system used by many companies in the past. A problem with proprietary systems is that data cannot be taken easily from one system or process flow to another and the file sizes can be extremely large, even for small amounts of data. In addition, a standardized lidar data format will facilitate the processing, editing and visualization of lidar data in a wide variety of commercial and proprietary software packages, as well as the efficient exchange of data between data providers and end-users. The standard is an expandable format, which can be modified to accommodate future develop- ments of lidar technology. The standard is available at, click on Standards.

The Lidar Committee of the ASPRS Photogrammetric Applications Division has reviewed the data format and agreed to promote the format as an ASPRS Standard. The format has been reviewed and discussed at numerous industry forums and technical conferences over the past two years and has been in “beta” release for a year. A formal public comment period was conducted in early 2003. The proposed standard was published in the February 2003 issue of PE&RS and formally approved by the ASPRS Board on May 9, 2003. "ASPRS is proud to be playing a leading role in establishing and maintaining standards and best practices for new mapping and remote sensing technologies such as lidar,” said ASPRS President Don Lauer. “Through these on-going activities ASPRS continues to serve the changing needs of its members while enhancing its reputation as one of the leading professional societies for imaging and geospatial practitioners."

The ASPRS Lidar Data Exchange Format Standard is often referred to as the “LAS” format because the standard designates “.LAS” as the file name extension. It is expected that this shorthand designation will remain the common name for the format. Many ASPRS member organizations, including the major industry manufacturers and software developers, have already adopted Version 1.0 of the LAS format.

The standard has widespread support domestically and internationally. ASPRS will now maintain the file format as the ASPRS Lidar Data Exchange Format Standard. The managing body within ASPRS will be the Professional Practice Division, Standards Committee. The Lidar Committee of the Photogrammetric Applications Division will serve as a liaison to the Standards Committee on all technical matters pertaining to the data format. The industry consortium members remain as active participants in the maintenance and development of the standard through their participation on the Lidar Committee.

Maintenance of this standard by ASPRS provides an invaluable service to ASPRS individual members, sustaining members, and to the geospatial data industry at-large. It is anticipated that ASPRS’s adoption of this standard, along with the future release of an ASPRS handbook covering guidelines and best practices for lidar mapping, will further promote the adoption of lidar mapping by professional practitioners.