Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
John A. Dutton e-Education Institute

Learn about Topographic Mapping with Lidar

What You'll Learn in GEOG 481

In this course, you will learn how lasers are used in topographic mapping to produce elevation models, 3D scenes, and other GIS products. The course begins with the fundamentals of lidar sensor design to understand how a precise, dense, and accurately georeferenced point cloud can be captured. The course then introduces the production workflow used to separate bare earth from above ground features, such as buildings, bridges, and vegetation. You will learn how lidar data and structured in industry-standard datasets, and apply lidar data to analyses such as floodplain mapping, forestry and habitat analysis, and 3D urban modeling.

Technologies You'll Use

Students will learn to use the ESRI LAS Dataset in ArcGIS; however, the majority of the hands-on work in the class will be accomplished using GeoCue LP360 software, both as a standalone application and as an ArcGIS extension. Students will also learn to search and download lidar data from public domain sources, such as USGS Earth Explorer, NOAA Data Access Viewer, and

View the Syllabus

What’s the best way to determine if this class is for you? Check out the syllabus! This page shows all materials, how you’ll be graded, and lists assignments and a timeline for the class.

Degree & Certificate Programs

This class is part of Penn State's award winning Online Geospatial Education portfolio of programs, which includes the Master of GIS degree and certificates in GIS, GEOINT, and Remote Sensing. All of these programs are taught online and designed around the needs of working professionals.

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Questions about this course or our programs? We're here to help! You can talk to our faculty or touch base with students who have taken this class.

What Our Students Say

"I was able to master the necessary software skills and scientific theory of lidar classification and mapping without having any background in the subject matter. Combined with the object-based image analysis methods I learned in GEOG 883, I now feel confident about transitioning into a future remote sensing career."

- Travis Meyer

"GEOG 481 is beneficial if you are interested in developing knowledge in and skills for working with lidar point clouds with respect to applications in topographic mapping. I found the flexibility in the final class project particularly useful ... I used it as an opportunity to apply lessons learned to my proposed MGIS Capstone."

- Cale Kochenour

Meet the Faculty

Karen Schuckman

Online Geospatial Education Programs

This course is part of Penn State’s Online Geospatial Education portfolio of programs. For more information on our award-winning courses, certificates, and degree options, click below.