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R Bloggers
Date(s): May 14

This workshop will provide hands on experience with working lidar data in raster format in R. It will cover the basics of what lidar data are and commonly derived data products.

Goals / Objectives

After completing this workshop, you will be able to:

  • Explain what lidar data are and how they’re used in science.
  • Describe the key lidar data products - digital surface model, digital terrain model and canopy height model.
  • Work with, analyze and export results of lidar derived rasters in R.

Things to Do Before the Workshop

Download The Data

Download NEON Teaching Data Subset: Field Site Spatial Data

These remote sensing data files provide information on the vegetation at the National Ecological Observatory Network’s San Joaquin Experimental Range and Soaproot Saddle field sites. This data is intended for educational purposes, for access to all the data for research purposes visit the NEON Data Portal.

Download NEON Teaching Data Subset: Sample LiDAR Point Cloud Data (.las)

This .las file contains sample LiDAR point cloud data collected by National Ecological Observatory Network’s Airborne Observation Platform group. The .las file format is a commonly used file format to store LIDAR point cloud data.

Setup R & RStudio

To participate in the workshop, we recommend that you come with R and RStudio installed. R is a programming language that specializes in statistical computing. It is a powerful tool for exploratory data analysis. To interact with R, we STRONGLY recommend RStudio, an interactive development environment (IDE).

Install R Packages

You can chose to install each library individually if you already have some installed. Or you can download the script below and run it to install all libraries at once.

  • raster: install.packages("raster")
  • rgdal: install.packages("rgdal")
  • maptools: install.packages("maptools")
  • ggplot2: install.packages("ggplot2")
  • rgeos: install.packages("rgeos")
  • dplyr:install.packages("dplyr")

Download Script to Install Packages in R

Read Background Materials

Workshop Instructors

  • Natalie Robinson
  • Leah A. Wasser


Time Topic  
12:00 Working with Raster Data in R  
12:45 Working With Image Formatted Rasters in R  
1:15 The Basics of LiDAR - Light Detection and Ranging - Remote Sensing  
1:20 Explore with Lidar Point Clouds in a free online viewer:  
1:45 Working with Lidar Derived raster products in R  
2:30 Capstone - Create NDVI from Geotiffs in R  
2:50 Wrap-up, Feedback, Questions  

Optional resources


QGIS is a cross-platform Open Source Geographic Information system.

Online LiDAR Data Viewer (las viewer) is a Open Source LiDAR data viewer developed by Martin Isenberg of Las Tools and several of his colleagues.

Additional Color Palettes