The most used commercial LiDAR programs

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Global Mapper

Global Mapper is a very interesting GIS software that allows you to work with both vector data and raster data. By default, this software from the company “Blue Marble Geographics” has incorporated some tools to visualize point clouds, eliminate returns or cut segments. You can download from
Furthermore, Global Mapper has an extension that is exclusive to work with LiDAR and will allow you to use numerous tools, algorithms and functions to obtain different products from a point cloud:

Extra options for rendering a point cloud
Create point clouds from overlapping images
LiDAR coloring from raster
Create digital terrain and elevation models
Self-classification and detection algorithms for cables, electrical towers, buildings, etc.

3D Global Mapper view
3D view of a point cloud using Global Mapper

To use the basic LiDAR display options, you only need the Global Mapper license. For advanced LiDAR options, you need to purchase an extra “LiDAR Module” license.


eCognition is a Trimble program perfect for working with multiband imagery and developing algorithms and workflows for extracting objects from raster.

What makes eCognition a very interesting proposition is its machine learning module. This program presents a series of algorithms with which to create examples and carry out training to “teach” a model to learn to find objects automatically, such as plants in a crop, buildings, power lines, etc.

Added to all of the above is its LiDAR module, which allows us to visualize point clouds in 3D, create all kinds of raster from the point cloud and very interesting self-classification


Screenshot of the eCognition program. House extraction from DSM and RGB combination
For now, you cannot use machine learning directly in the point cloud, but in the raster by-products that we can obtain from it. That is, we can generate a digital model of the terrain or a raster of intensities from LiDAR and combine both layers to train a model in machine learning and identify elements of the terrain.

FME, is a spatial data integration platform

Among its multiple utilities, it allows you to transform your point clouds.

Viewing and inspecting point clouds
Reading and writing point clouds
Point cloud thinning and blending: PointCloudCombiner and
PointCloudFilter: PointCloudFilter is an FME transformer that can filter point clouds based on an expression.
Eliminate noise in point clouds: Using several transformers in FME, noise in point cloud can be eliminated.
From the FME website you can check the price of their licenses and you can also download one
trial version:
If you need training in FME you can review our FME Desktop Course for GIS data management and analysis

Among many other functionalities, the ESRI platform also allows us to work with LiDAR data.

ArcGIS supports LIDAR data provided as LAS (or ASCII) files. There are three different formats (datasets) that can be used to manage and work with LIDAR data in ArcGIS, which include the LAS dataset, terrain dataset, and a mosaic dataset.

We can therefore:

Make 3D views
Change LiDAR rating
Classify points using GIS entities
Take different measurements in the point cloud
Perform spatial analysis
Obtain digital elevation models
Calculate volumes
Use viewshed, contour, profile tools, etc.
In ArcGis we can also incorporate LAStools to process LiDAR much more efficiently and with multiple functionalities. To use LAStools commercially or for research, you would need a separate license from ESRI.

Terra Scan

Perhaps my favorite LiDAR processing program. It is the most powerful of the previous ones. It belongs to the Terra Solid program package that includes Terra Photo to work with images, Terra Match to process the captured data, Terra Slave to run multiprocesses etc.

Terra Scan, in combination with Microstation (Bentley), allows you to do practically anything you can imagine with your LiDAR. From 3D modeling to from point clouds to creating a multitude of by-products. It can read LAZ and LAS formats without problems and also has its own LiDAR format to optimize processes.

To make use of Terra Scan, nec

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