July 2017

Recent versions of SAGA GIS no longer support importing files in the .las format. However, a .las file can be converted using PDAL’s writers.text module into a text file format, which in turn can be imported in SAGA. For this example, we will begin with a .las file projected in a state plane CRS that is the output of my post Reprojecting LIDAR .las files to Latitude/Longitude to State Plane Example.

  1. Open a new text file named las2xyz.json in the same directory as your .las file and paste the following into it:
      "pipeline": [
          "type": "readers.las",
          "filename": "20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.las"
          "type": "writers.text",
          "order": "X,Y,Z",
          "keep_unspecified": "false",
          "quote_header": "false",
          "delimiter": ",",
          "filename": "20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.txt"
  2. Now run the pipeline. This may take a while. Once it completes, you should now see the converted .txt file in the working directory.
    pdal pipeline las2xyz.json
    ls -hs -1 
    total 1.1G
    227M 20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.las
    148M 20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.laz
    745M 20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.txt
    4.0K las2xyz.json
    4.0K lat_lng_WA_S_FIPS_ft_reprojection.pipeline.json
  3. Let’s perform a quick sanity check on this new file:
    less 20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.txt
  4. Open SAGA GIS. From the Geoprocessing menu, select File -> Tables -> Import -> Import Text Table with Numbers only
    Import Text Table from SAGA GIS Geooprocessing menu
  5. Select the .txt point cloud file that was created by PDAL, with the appropriate options as shown in the screenshot. Click Okay. Since the example text file used is nearly 1.0 GB in size, importing may take some time.
    SAGA GIS - Import text table with numbers only
  6. Once the text file has been imported as a table into SAGA, select Geoprocessing -> Shapes -> Point Clouds -> Conversion -> Point Cloud from Table.
    SAGA GIS - Point Cloud from Table Menu
  7. Select the table that was created in the previous step, and then set the values for X/Y/Z to these columns from the table.
    SAGA GIS - Point Cloud From Table
  8. Afterwards, you will get the point cloud generated in your data sources.
    SAGA GIS - Point Cloud in Data sources
  9. From the Geoprocessing menu, select Visualization -> 3D Viewer -> Point Cloud Viewer. Select Z as the colored attribute.
    SAGA GIS - Geoprocessing 3d visualization
    SAGA GIS - Point Cloud Viewer Dialog
  10. Click Okay. The point cloud will be displayed in SAGA’s Point Cloud Viewer tool:
    SAGA - Point Cloud in Point Cloud Viewer

  1. Download one or more lidar tiles:
    wget https://coast.noaa.gov/htdata/lidar1_z/geoid12b/data/5008/20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.laz
  2. Note the source crs (coordinate reference system, i.e. projection). This 2013 USGS Lidar: Olympic Peninsula (WA) Point Cloud dataset from NOAA uses EPSG 4269. This means that the point cloud coordinates are using latitude/longitude, which is not well supported by many downstream GIS tools. Running lasinfo https://coast.noaa.gov/htdata/lidar1_z/geoid12b/data/5008/20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.laz confirms that the x and y coordinates are in lat/lng:
    lasinfo (170203) report for 20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.laz
    reporting all LAS header entries:
      file signature:             'LASF'
      file source ID:             0
      global_encoding:            1
      project ID GUID data 1-4:   00000000-0000-0000-6C4F-6D7900636970
      version major.minor:        1.2
      system identifier:          'LAStools (c) by rapidlasso GmbH'
      generating software:        'lasduplicate (160119) commercia'
      file creation day/year:     231/2014
      header size:                227
      offset to point data:       331
      number var. length records: 1
      point data format:          1
      point data record length:   28
      number of point records:    25204541
      number of points by return: 16034492 6849061 2147980 173008 0
      scale factor x y z:         0.0000001 0.0000001 0.001
      offset x y z:               0 0 0
      min x y z:                  -123.9223149 47.8406412 248.190
      max x y z:                  -123.9087939 47.8497435 827.800

    Thus, re-projecting the .las file is necessary before any further processing can be done. Common CRS systems include UTM based projections, as well as state plane. For this example, I’ve chosen to reproject from lat/lng to NAD 1983 StatePlane Washington South FIPS 4602 Feet as it is what is used by data available through the Puget Sound Lidar Consortium.

  3. Re-projection can be done with PDAL’s filters.reprojection. Create a new JSON pipeline file named lat_lng_WA_S_FIPS_ft_reprojection.pipeline.json with the following contents:

      "pipeline": [
          "type": "readers.las",
          "compression": "laszip",
          "filename": "20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.laz"
          "type": "filters.reprojection",
          "in_srs": "EPSG:4326",
          "out_srs": "EPSG:102749"
          "type": "writers.las",
          "compression": "laszip",
          "scale_x": "0.01",
          "scale_y": "0.01",
          "scale_z": "0.01",
          "offset_x": "auto",
          "offset_y": "auto",
          "offset_z": "auto",
          "filename": "20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.las"

    Now save the file and run the pipeline. This will probably take a while as it involves de-compressing the input .laz file, iterating through and reprojecting every point in the point cloud, and writing the output file to disk. Now, examining the outputted, reprojected .las file with lasinfo 20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.las will indicate the min/max in the new projection, as well as the z (elevation) values converted into feet:

    lasinfo 20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.las 
    lasinfo (170203) report for 20131013_usgs_olympic_wa_10TDT310990.las
    reporting all LAS header entries:
      file signature:             'LASF'
      file source ID:             0
      global_encoding:            0
      project ID GUID data 1-4:   00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000
      version major.minor:        1.2
      system identifier:          'PDAL'
      generating software:        'PDAL 1.5.0 (Releas)'
      file creation day/year:     211/2017
      header size:                227
      offset to point data:       690
      number var. length records: 3
      point data format:          3
      point data record length:   34
      number of point records:    25204541
      number of points by return: 16034492 6849061 2147980 173008 0
      scale factor x y z:         0.01 0.01 0.01
      offset x y z:               800114.623206489603035 932554.57963061647024 814.270025000000487
      min x y z:                  800114.62 932554.58 814.27
      max x y z:                  803498.24 935938.24 2715.87