Professional Education for the LiDAR Student

The Christmas trees are out along the roads and in the stores and already up and decorated in many homes. The radio waves are filled with the familiar sounds of Christmas carols. The stores are just as crazy as ever for December with shopping frenzies for the expected gift on Christmas morning. This is where many have their thoughts centered during December.

As a licensed surveyor, my thoughts inevitably turn towards the requirement to fulfill my CEUs to maintain my license for the coming year. Every year I vow to take care of these in January and every year January quickly becomes December. What better time to be working on my CEUs than between Christmas and New Years Eve? This is not a good way to spend such precious time with friends and family during the holiday season. Nevertheless the cycle repeats itself. Soon I will have to begin CEUs for my Certified Photogrammetrist certificate as well.

In every profession that requires licensure and annual CEUs, the method of obtaining such credits is often challenged along with the intent and results of such requirements. There generally are courses offered at conferences, at a number of on-line sites, or at a local college, all of which qualify for CEU credits. Generally the conference courses require little more than your time and attention. On-line courses require self-study and a test. They also assume you have the ethics to actually do the work yourself. College courses are definitely the most demanding as they almost always include home work, projects, and the dreaded exams. You pass or fail and nobody likes to fail.

I think the CEU requirement is a good idea. As a (professional) surveyor we are to serve the public and protect their interest in a lawful manner. Our standards should be high.

In searching the internet for qualifying and affordable courses I wanted to find anything offered on LiDAR for aerial, mobile, and terrestrial, with an emphasis on the latter two. A few minutes in a search engine found a very limited amount of such resources. This is rather disconcerting. It seems that (ground) LiDAR is being embraced about as readily as GIS was just a few years ago by the survey community that is to say, with a lot of reluctance.

To practice surveying you have to have a state surveying license. To practice photogrammetry it is a good idea to have a Certified Photogrammetrist (CP) certificate. Theres a huge difference between the two one is legally binding and the other is simply proof that you are striving for excellence. However, both demonstrate a concern for the profession and public. Consider this, to drive a car, you only have to be 16 years old, demonstrate rudimentary driving skills, pass a written test demonstrating an understanding of traffic laws, and pay a small fee.

What about the LiDAR professional who is neither a surveyor nor a photogrammetrist? They are definitely working in the public space. Shouldnt they be held to some form of accountability or at least shouldnt LiDAR specialist implement some form of certification? If there is no form of licensure or certification, shouldnt there at least be LiDAR courses available for CEU credit? Shouldnt the survey societies (take the lead and) be offering courses with qualified CEU credits in this area? Realizing that many ground-based LiDAR technicians are not surveyors (probably few are) it is still in their best interest to add quality to the field by implementing some form of assurance to the public that they know what they are doing.

In my brief internet search, I found just a few sites of interest. First, on June 10, 2011, LiDAR News published an article, Online Intro to LiDAR Training Course ( A quick review showed there were 12 replies to the article up through March 2013. Considering that most articles have no replies, this shows a definite interest in this topic. Unfortunately the links to the courses are now broken (although probably available somewhere).

Next up was a link to the University of Minnesota, Water Resources Center, They have a very nice website with several courses. A quick review suggested that they share a lot of useful information.

Before going too many pages deep in my search, I found The Geological Society of America (GSA),, offered a course at their October 2013 conference in Denver (Introduction to Terrestrial Laser Scanning (Ground-Based LiDAR) for Earth Science Research). This course included a hands-on session. The abstract was attractive.

This is what I found in just a few minutes. I quickly scanned a few more pages and didnt see much else. There are college courses available but they come at a much steeper price than the typical CEU credit (usually about $30/credit) and generally lead towards a degree. The CEU seeking professional is generally not interested in yet another degree and not willing to spend over a few hundred dollars for their courses.

Licensure or certification for the LiDAR operators is not necessary, but it is something to consider. At this point in time it is more important to have a solid offering of LiDAR courses available at the state surveying and GIS conferences. Education is the key to understanding and growth. For everybody scrambling for their end of year CEU credits, Im sure there are at least a few besides myself that would like to have choice to select some LiDAR courses that qualify for their CEU credits.

If you are looking for that perfect stocking stuffer for the enterprising individual interested in LiDAR, consider Snoopy ( Have a safe and Merry Christmas to everyone.