PostgreSQL extension for storing point cloud (LIDAR) data


LIDAR sensors quickly produce millions of points with large numbers of variables measured on each point. The challenge for a point cloud database extension is efficiently storing this data while allowing high fidelity access to the many variables stored.

Much of the complexity in handling LIDAR comes from the need to deal with multiple variables per point. The variables captured by LIDAR sensors varies by sensor and capture process. Some data sets might contain only X/Y/Z values. Others will contain dozens of variables: X, Y, Z; intensity and return number; red, green, and blue values; return times; and many more. There is no consistency in how variables are stored: intensity might be stored in a 4-byte integer, or in a single byte; X/Y/Z might be doubles, or they might be scaled 4-byte integers.

PostgreSQL Pointcloud deals with all this variability by using a "schema document" to describe the contents of any particular LIDAR point. Each point contains a number of dimensions, and each dimension can be of any data type, with scaling and/or offsets applied to move between the actual value and the value stored in the database. The schema document format used by PostgreSQL Pointcloud is the same one used by the PDAL library.

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