A general-purpose framework for parallel processing of large-scale LiDAR data

Zhenlong Li, Michael E. Hodgson, WenWen Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data are essential for scientific discoveries such as Earth and ecological sciences, environmental applications, and responding to natural disasters. While collecting LiDAR data over large areas is quite possible the subsequent processing steps typically involve large computational demands. Efficiently storing, managing, and processing LiDAR data are the prerequisite steps for enabling these LiDAR-based applications. However, handling LiDAR data poses grand geoprocessing challenges due to data and computational intensity. To tackle such challenges, we developed a general-purpose scalable framework coupled with a sophisticated data decomposition and parallelization strategy to efficiently handle ‘big’ LiDAR data collections. The contributions of this research were (1) a tile-based spatial index to manage big LiDAR data in the scalable and fault-tolerable Hadoop distributed file system, (2) two spatial decomposition techniques to enable efficient parallelization of different types of LiDAR processing tasks, and (3) by coupling existing LiDAR processing tools with Hadoop, a variety of LiDAR data processing tasks can be conducted in parallel in a highly scalable distributed computing environment using an online geoprocessing application. A proof-of-concept prototype is presented here to demonstrate the feasibility, performance, and scalability of the proposed framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-47
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Digital Earth
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2018


  • Big data
  • Hadoop MapReduce
  • LAStools
  • online geoprocessing
  • parallel
  • spatial decomposition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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