Preparing Drone LiDAR from Snoopy by LidarUSA carrying a Velodyne HDL-32E

In March 2019 I was welcoming Nelson Mattie from LiDAR Latinoamerica to Samara who brought along his versatile Snoopy A-Series scanning system by LidarUSA that is based on the Velodyne HDL-32E scanner. We mounted it to his truck for a mobile scan of the core downtown block, Nelson carried it on his shoulder through “Samara Jungle” for a pedestrian scan and we strapped it onto a DJI Matrice 600 to scan this cute beach and surf town from above.

The scanning part was easy. Getting sensible data out of the ScanLookPC software proved to be quite an Odyssee as I neither had access to nor training with the ScanLookPC software. Hard surfaces such as the roof of the “New China” supermarket looked this wobbly when looking at the points from individual beams of this 32 beam scanner and turned into a complete fuzz when using all points from all beams.

I could only scrutinize the LAS files and I found several unrelated errors, such as duplicate returns and non-unique GPS time stamps, but I was unable to fix the wobbles. Frustrated with the vendor support I was ready to give up when out-of-nowhere I suddenly got an email from Luis Hernandez Perez who also worked with these system. He sent me a link to properly exported flight strips and suggested “it was a problem of poor GNSS signal and the solution for me was use the base station IND1 (of IGS) that was 3.2 kilometers away”. After months of struggles I finally had LiDAR data from downtown Samara and look how crisp the roof of the supermarket suddenly was.

As always my standard quality checks are running lasview, lasinfo, lasgrid but most importantly lasoverlap which would reveal the typical flight line misalignments that we can find in most airborne surveys.

lasoverlap ^
-i Samara\Drone\00_raw\*.laz -faf ^
-step 1 -min_diff 0.1 -max_diff 0.2 -no_over ^
-o Samara\Drone\01_quality\overlap_10_20_before.png

As usually, I contacted Andre Jalobeanu from Bayesmap and asked for help with the alignment. A few days later he returned a new and improved set of flight lines to me that he had run through his stripalign software. So I performed the same quality check with lasoverlap once again.

lasoverlap ^
-i Samara\Drone\00_raw_aligned\*.laz -faf ^
-step 1 -min_diff 0.1 -max_diff 0.2 -no_over ^
-o Samara\Drone\01_quality\overlap_10_20_after.png

Vertical differences of more than 20 centimeters are mapped to saturated blue and red and the improvement in alignment though stripalign is impressive. Note that the road is not white because it was perfectly aligned but because there was no data. A few days before the scan, Samara got a new tar road from the municipality. As we were flying at 70 meters above ground – a little too high for this LiDAR scanner – we did not capture surfaces with low reflectivity and the fresh black tar did not reflect enough photons.

The Velodyne HDL-32E scanner rotates shooting laser beams from 32 different heads and the information which return comes from which head was stored into the “user data” field and into the “point_source ID” field of each point by the exporting software. The LAS format does not have a dedicated field for this information as the supported maximum number of different laser beams is 4 in the new point types 6 through 10 of the latest LAS 1.4 specification (where this field is called the “scanner channel”). But when we use lastile to turn the flight lines into square tiles we will override the “point_source ID” with the flight line number. Also the “user data” field is a fragile place to store important information as lasheight, for example, will store temporary data there. The “extra bytes” concept of the LAS format is perfect to store such an additional attribute and the ASPRS LAS Working Group is currently discussing to have standardized “extra bytes” for exactly such laser beam IDs.

We at rapidlasso have already implemented this a while ago into our LAStools software. So before processing the data any further we copy the beam index that ranges from 0 to 31 from the “user data” field into an unsigned 8 bit integer “extra byte” with these two las2las commands.

las2las ^
-i Samara\Drone\00_raw_aligned\*.laz ^
-add_attribute 1 "laser beam ID" "which beam ranged this return" ^
-odir Samara\Drone\00_raw_temp -olaz

las2las ^
-i Samara\Drone\00_raw_temp\*.laz ^
-copy_user_data_into_attribute 0 ^
-set_user_data 0 ^
-set_point_source 0 ^
-odir Samara\Drone\00_raw_ready -olaz

In a future article we will process these aligned and prepared flight lines into a number of products. We thank Nelson Mattie from LiDAR Latinoamerica, Luis Hernandez Perez and Andre Jalobeanu from Bayesmap to help me acquire and fix this data. Several others helped with experiments using their own software and data or contributed otherwise to the discussions in the LAStools user forum. Thanks, guys. This data will soon be available as open data but a sample lasinfo report is already below.

lasinfo (210128) report for 'Samara\Drone\00_raw_ready\flightline_01.laz'
reporting all LAS header entries:
file signature: 'LASF'
file source ID: 1
global_encoding: 0
project ID GUID data 1-4: 00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000
version major.minor: 1.2
system identifier: 'LAStools (c) by rapidlasso GmbH'
generating software: 'las2las (version 210315)'
file creation day/year: 224/2019
header size: 227
offset to point data: 527
number var. length records: 2
point data format: 1
point data record length: 29
number of point records: 6576555
number of points by return: 6576555 0 0 0 0
scale factor x y z: 0.001 0.001 0.001
offset x y z: 661826 1092664 14
min x y z: 660986.622 1092595.013 11.816
max x y z: 661858.813 1092770.575 95.403
variable length header record 1 of 2:
reserved 0
user ID 'ScanLook'
record ID 25
length after header 0
description 'ScanLook Point Cloud'
variable length header record 2 of 2:
reserved 0
user ID 'LASF_Spec'
record ID 4
length after header 192
description 'by LAStools of rapidlasso GmbH'
Extra Byte Descriptions
data type: 1 (unsigned char), name "laser beam ID", description: "which beam ranged this return", scale: 1 (not set), offset: 0 (not set)

LASzip compression (version 3.4r3 c2 50000): POINT10 2 GPSTIME11 2 BYTE 2
reporting minimum and maximum for all LAS point record entries …
X -839378 32813
Y -68987 106575
Z -2184 81403
intensity 4 255
return_number 1 1
number_of_returns 1 1
edge_of_flight_line 0 0
scan_direction_flag 0 0
classification 1 1
scan_angle_rank -12 90
user_data 0 0
point_source_ID 0 0
gps_time 537764.192416 537854.547507
attribute0 0 31 ('laser beam ID')
number of first returns: 6576555
number of intermediate returns: 0
number of last returns: 6576555
number of single returns: 6576555
overview over number of returns of given pulse: 6576555 0 0 0 0 0 0
histogram of classification of points:
6576555 unclassified (1)

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