Open lidar data for Alberta and B.C.

Posted Apr 2, 2024 by Biodiversity Pathways

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In 2024, the ABMI will begin releasing free, public lidar datasets.

In 2022, the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) began collecting lidar data in partnership with various funders and collaborators, including Biodiversity Pathways. Throughout 2024, some of these lidar data—covering approximately 5,600 km2 in Alberta and northeastern British Columbia—will be made freely and publicly available online.

What is lidar?

Lidar stands for “light detection and ranging”. A scanner (laser transmitter and receiver), a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receiver, and an inertial navigation system (INS) are mounted to an aircraft. A laser is sent towards the ground by the scanner and is reflected back from various surfaces. The distance the laser beam travels is measured based on the time it takes to get back to the scanner. When that information is combined with the positional information from the GNSS and INS, we can create three-dimensional point clouds that represent the surface

The ABMI’s lidar program

The ABMI has collected nearly 70,000 km2 of lidar data to date. During the growing season (June 15 – September 15), data is typically collected at a density of 12 points per m2. In the spring and fall (“leaf off”), data collection usually yields a density of 6 points per m2.

Throughout 2024, lidar data covering approximately 5,600 km2 will be made publicly available on the ABMI’s website:

  • Christina Lake, Alberta (flown 2022, approx. 3,000 km2)
  • Porcupine Hills, Alberta (flown 2022, approx. 1,000 km2)
  • Perimeter Forest Project, British Columbia (flown 2023, approx. 1,600 km2)

The Alberta blocks were collected with funding support from the Government of Alberta. The Perimeter Forests block was collected with funding support to Biodiversity Pathways by Perimeter Forest.

An additional 38,000 km2 along the eastern border of Alberta will be publicly released throughout 2024 and 2025. During the summer of 2024, the ABMI is planning to fly new missions covering approximately 30,000 km2 in the foothills and northern boreal regions of Alberta. A detailed schedule of public release of this lidar data will be communicated as the season progresses. For more information about the lidar program, please contact