LVIS Classic and Facility L1B and L2 data from GEDI Cal/Val 2021 are now available at NSIDC!

What is LVIS?


NASA's Land, Vegetation, and Ice Sensor or "LVIS", is an airborne, wide-swath imaging laser altimeter system that is flown over target areas to collect data on surface topography and 3-d structure. Utilizing a system that includes a 1064 nm-wavelength laser and 3 detectors, the entire time history of the outgoing and return pulses is digitized, allowing unambiguous determination of range and return pulse structure. Combined with aircraft position and attitude knowledge, the sensor produces topographic maps with decimeter accuracy and vertical height and structure measurements of overflown terrain, e.g., vegetation and ice. LVIS operates at altitudes up to 20km above the ground and is capable of producing a data swath of up to 4km wide with 5m footprint. Flights also include high-resolution camera imagery. Other sensor data (e.g. hyper spectral images) can be collected on request.

Since 2017, the sensor has been operating as a NASA Facility, providing low cost data to NASA investigators and science missions. Contact us for details on how to include LVIS flights in your proposals.

Recent LVIS Missions

ICESat-2 Cal/Val 2022

In July 2022, LVIS-F was used along with a Leica Chiroptera 4X system operated by the University of Texas to collect data over the Arctic Ocean, including along ICESat-2 Reference Ground Tracks.

Greenland April 2022

In April 2022, LVIS-F lidar sensor was used to collect surface elevation and structure information over polar sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet at low (1500’) or medium (23,000’) flight altitudes in the NASA P-3B, operating with 2 LVIS camera sensors and the KU/CReSIS radar sensor.

GEDI Cal/Val Products

GEDI Cal/Val 2021

In 2021, LVIS collected data to provide calibration for GEDI while underflying ground tracks in the southeastern United States as well as French Guiana.

Flight trajectories and preliminary coverage maps are available on the data page, while L1B geolocated waveforms and L2 elevation and height products from both LVIS Classic and LVIS-F sensors are located at NSIDC.

GEDI Cal/Val 2019

In 2019, LVIS collected data to provide calibration for the recently-launched Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) payload on the International Space Station. Measurements were taken while underflying GEDI ground tracks in the southeastern United States and Central America, and area-mapping was performed over the Coweeta Experimental Forest in North Carolina as well as the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica.

Flight trajectories and preliminary coverage maps are available on the data page, as well as a link to the L1B geolocated waveforms and L2 elevation and height products located at NSIDC.

AfriSAR 2016

The AfriSAR field campaign in Feb-March 2016 collected data to help prepare and calibrate four current and upcoming spaceborne missions for NASA, ESA and DLR.

LVIS was one of several airborne sensors and was used to collect surface topography, vegetation height and structure data of several sites in Gabon, Africa.

Example of LVIS Scan and Beam Pattern

This image shows the LVIS scan and beam pattern. The unique LVIS scanning system generates this pattern that evenly and completely samples the surface below. There are approximately 100 beams across the 2 km wide swath. The colors represent the surface elevation (blue is low, yellow/white is high). The slight undulations at the top and bottom edges are a result of the aircraft roll. (Click image for full resolution)

Crane Glacier

LVIS data over the Antarctic Peninsula draped onto the Google Earth background.

For more information and access to the Crane dataset click here.

LVIS Deployment Schedule

LVIS is planning multiple exciting missions in 2023 and beyond. To view our planned deployments, please browse the calendar above. If you have a proposal for add-on flight hours, please contact the LVIS team at