Using USGS las files to create ion terrain

I’m trying to achieve better tree visualization for low-altitude (helicopter) simulation visualization. I’ve had some luck with the following and was wondering if anyone has a suggestion on improving the process:

  1. Download las files from the USGS NationalMap

  2. Use las2las to keep only first returns:

las2las -v -i $1 -o filtered.las --first-return-only

  1. Use las2ogr to create a shape files:

las2ogr -i filtered.las -o filtered.shp -f “ESRI Shapefile”

  1. Use goal_rasterize to create a GeoTiff:

gdal_rasterize -3d -tr 1 1 filtered.dbf filtered.tif

  1. Use gdalwarp to add the spatial reference set to the tif:

gdalwarp -s_srs ‘+proj=utm +zone=18 +datum=NAD83’ -t_srs ‘+proj=utm +zone=18 +datum=WGS84’ filtered.tif filteredFinal

  1. Upload the final GeoTIff to ion.

The results look OK although I’m probably going to have to do some more tuning to improve the appearance.

Ideally I would just upload the original las file into ion and it would have a pipeline to do all of the above.

Any ideas out there?

Thanks, Matt.

Hey Matt,

I’m curious about this as well! You might get more feedback if you post this in the ion community repo ( If it’s a common enough workflow I can imagine ion supporting this.