Land, Vegetation and Ice Sensor

NASA’s Land, Vegetation and Ice Sensor (LVIS) is a wide-swath, high-altitude, full-waveform airborne laser altimeter and camera sensor suite designed to provide elevation and surface structure measurements over hundreds of thousands of square kilometers. LVIS is an efficient and cost-effective capability for mapping land, water, and ice surface topography, vegetation height and vertical structure, and surface dynamics. The LVIS Facility is comprised of two high-altitude scanning lidar systems plus cameras that have been integrated on numerous NASA, NSF, and commercial aircraft platforms providing a diverse and flexible capability to meet a broad range of science needs. The newest Facility lidar (LVIS-F) began operations in 2017 using a 4,000 Hz laser, and an earlier 1,000 Hz sensor built in 2010 has undergone various upgrades (LVIS-Classic). High-resolution, commercial off-the-shelf cameras are co-mounted with LVIS lidars providing geotagged image coverage across the LVIS swath. LVIS sensors have flown extensively for a wide range of science applications and have been installed on over a dozen different aircraft, most recently on NASA’s high-altitude Gulfstream-V jet based at Johnson Space Center

The LVIS lidars are full-waveform laser altimeters, meaning that the systems digitally record both the outgoing and reflected laser pulse shapes providing a true 3-dimensional record of the surface and centimeter-level range precision. Multiple science data products are available for each footprint, including the geolocated waveform vector, sub-canopy topography, canopy or structure height, surface complexity, and others. LVIS lidars map a ±6 degree wide data swath centered on nadir (e.g., at an operating altitude of 10 km, the data swath is 2 km wide). They are designed to fly at higher altitudes than what is typical for commercial lidars in order to map a wider swath with low incidence angles, avoid the need for terrain following, while operating at much higher speeds that maximize the range of the aircraft. Recent data campaigns include deployments to Antarctica, Greenland, Canada, Alaska, the conterminous US, Central America, French Guiana, and Gabon.

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