RIEGL LMS-Q780: The Leader in High Altitude LIDAR Mapping

Mapping wide area projects in mountainous terrain has always presented a challenge for the airborne community. Obstacles such as extreme terrain variation, high spatial density, uniform point distribution, eye safety, and high accuracy often make airborne data collects difficult and costly. In a recent demonstration in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the new RIEGL Airborne Laser Scanning System, the LMS-Q780, was put to the test. The RIEGL LMS-Q780 proved that these challenges can be effectively met by using state of the art technology.

The demonstration was held on May 17, 2013 to test and showcase the capabilities of the LMS-Q780; to test the maximum range of the laser, to test the performance of the laser on snow and ice fields in mountainous terrain, and to map areas with large changes in elevation to examine the performance of RiMTA, RIEGL’s software created for automatic resolution of range ambiguities, with the LMS-Q780.
This demonstration took place at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and the Red Mountains near Telluride, Colorado. The demonstration was carried out between RIEGL USA and two project partners.

The configured system of the RIEGL LMS-Q780 and the Applanix POS AV510 was flown in a DeHavilland Twin Otter by two pilots and one operator who utilized the RIEGL acquisition software, RiACQUIRE.  Maximum altitude (MSL) during the demonstration was 23,000 feet and the speed flown during the demonstration was between 130 to 160 knots.

The data acquisition of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park included two passes flown over the canyon to examine the altitude effects on the data captured. The first pass was flown at an average speed of 105 knots at an altitude of 6500 meters MSL (21,000 feet) while the second pass was flown at an average speed of 165 knots at 5000 meters (16,000 feet). The density of the data was 0.5 to 1 point per square meter.

The data acquisition through the Red Mountains included ten passes flown over the area for a combined density of about 2.5 to 5 points per square meter over the 200 square kilometer area flow. Six of the passes were flown north and south at a speed of 130 to 160 knots at an altitude of 6000 to 6500 meters MSL (19,000 to 21,000 feet). Four of the passes were flown east to west at a speed of 140 knots at an altitude of 5000 meters.

Once the scan data was acquired and the crew was back on the ground, the data was processed through the RIEGL processing software suite comprised of RiWORLD, RiPROCESS, and RIANALYZE. Only one person was needed for two hours of the post-processing of the accumulated data set, which also was run through the RiMTA module of the RiANALYZE software.

Over the course of the demonstration, roughly 400 square kilometers of topographic area were scanned with terrain height variations captured between 2400m to 4000m (8000 feet to 13000 feet) with a maximum altitude flown of 23000 feet MSL. 

Approximately five hundred million data points were collected with the point density on the ground at approximately 0.5 to 1 point per square meter.
The conclusion of this demonstration was not only did the RIEGL LMS-Q780 perform up to its own high standards but even surpassed them. The maximum ranges of the instrument, as seen in the collected data, was 17,000 feet over terrain with no snow with the potential ranges being even higher but not tested, due to aircraft service ceiling. The coverage of data throughout the mountainous terrain flown was exceptional; exceeding the expectations of those involved with the demonstration, due to the high flight altitudes flown. The system was able to handle up to ten simultaneous pulses in the air, which resulted in excellent ground data coverage, as well as safe flying conditions for the aircraft without the need for terrain following. Parallel scan lines and equally spaced laser footprints provided excellent topographic coverage. Deep canyons, crevices, and other demanding topographic areas were mapped and generated the optimal spatial sampling frequency needed for the demonstration and project at hand.

The detail collected from the Black Canyon proved that the RIEGL LMS-Q780 provides precise data at high altitudes and high collection speeds.  The average point density on the ground that was collected during these passes was 0.5 square meters at 6500m (21,325 feet) altitude. The excellent dynamic range of the system with regard to intensity proved to be exceptionally useful for snow identification methods.

The test and demonstration of the RIEGL LMS-Q780 Airborne Laser Scanning System in Colorado have shown that the system is capable of accomplishing complex terrain, such as mountains or urban areas, and wide area mapping. The proof is seen that the user is able to accomplish simple and safer flight planning and flying, even for difficult terrain, and can achieve faster project processing with exceptional data quality as the result.




With over twenty years of experience, RIEGL USA delivers cutting edge technology in airborne, mobile and stationary terrestrial laser scanning solutions. From your initial purchase, to integration of the systems, as well as training, RIEGL USA is dedicated to customer support. The key factor to RIEGL USA’s success is the well-known reliability of RIEGL hardware and support to our customers.

As a result of this success, RIEGL USA is recognized as the performance leader in the mobile mapping, civil infrastructure, airborne scanning, hydrographic, mining and terrestrial based industries. Our instruments are well known for their ruggedness and reliability under demanding environmental conditions.  RIEGL’s various 3D scanners offer a wide array of performance characteristics and serve as a platform for continuing “Innovation in 3D” for the laser scanning business.

RIEGL USA, located in Orlando, Florida, serves as the North American center of sales, training, and support for RIEGL Laser Measurement Systems, GmbH.

RIEGL Laser Measurement Systems, GmbH, is headquartered in Horn, Austria. RIEGL has over thirty years of experience in the research, development and production of laser rangefinders, distancemeters, and scanners that deliver proven innovations in 3D. RIEGL is dedicated to designing, developing, and producing the best possible laser sensors for the desired application in order to perfectly fulfill the given measurement tasks and therefore, fully satisfy the customers’ expectations worldwide.

7035 Grand National Drive, Suite 100
Orlando, Florida 32819


James Van Rens,
Riegl USA President

» Back to our Aerial Mapping Fall '13 Issue

Website design and hosting provided by 270net Technologies in Frederick, Maryland.