Are there plans to make the products contained in the geodatabases available in non-proprietary formats? Perhaps a majority of users use ArcGIS, but there is a lot of other software that could use the data if it were in compatible formats. I have no particular use for ArcGIS personally.
One of the sticking points with the geodatabases is their version. There are open-source libraries that can read ESRI gdb's, but only versions 10+, and the MN LiDAR gdb's were created with version 9.3. Version 10 gdb's would also be problematic, because nobody with previous versions of ArcGIS could read them.
MnDNR and MnGEO are working hard to produce an interactive LiDAR data downloader that is accessible in a web browser. One of the components of this project was to split the feature classes in the consolidated FGDBs into individual FGDBs and during this process we are converting all of the databases to V10.0 so that we can support open tool access.
Don't forget that there are LAS files available as well and there are several open source tools available to process them into other products including DEMs, contours etc....
I think that will make things significantly more accessible. I'm glad to hear that it's in the works.
Check out LasTools at this website:http://www.cs.unc.edu/~isenburg/lastools/
There are a number of useful tools for converting files to different formats. I have been using the las2txt tool and loading the individual points into a Postgres database. You can also reproject between state plane and UTM much faster than ArcGIS. The scripts have also been packaged in an Toolbox for ArcGIS.
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