16 Steps for Using MnGeo LiDAR Data in Civil 3D

This blog post was originally written for the Managed Design blog. Managed Design is now a U.S. CAD company, so please check back here at www.uscad.com/blog for more written articles from Doug Benoit and our new U.S. CAD Minnesota team.

If you’re having trouble working with MnGeo LiDAR data in Civil 3D, you’re in luck! I’m going to share an easy step-by-step guide to do just that. Before we start, you’ll have to extract and crop your LAZ file from the MnGeo website (by default metric). Then, follow the 16 steps below to bring the resulting metric LAS file into an Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D 2016 imperial environment to create usable data and ultimately a surface.


1. First, create a metric drawing using one of the metric templates (such as the _AutoCAD Civil 3D (Metric ) NCS.dwt).

2. Then assign a metric coordinate system to the drawing (for this example in Minnesota, UTM83-15 was set).

3. To verify the data, login into your A360 account and use the Geolocation tab to set the Online Map to Map Aerial.

4. From the Toolspace > Prospector > Point Clouds collection, right-click and pick Create Point Cloud.

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5. In the Create Point Cloud window, Source Data > Create a new point cloud database:

I1 createnewpointclouddb
  • Set the Select a point cloud file format to LAS
  • In the Files to be imported into the new point cloud database, set the Coordinate System to UTM83-15 (MN).
  • For the Specify new point cloud database, set the path.
  • Verify the Point cloud database coordinate system and the Current drawing’s coordinate system.
  • Click Finish to create a new point cloud *.isd database.

6. The Point Cloud X, Y, and Z values are currently all metric.

I2 PointCloudDb Metric

7. Once verified, set the Online Map to Map Off.

8. Save the file.

9. Next create your design imperial drawing using your template or an imperial template (such as the _AutoCAD Civil 3D (Imperial ) NCS.dwt).

10. Then assign your project or an imperial coordinate system to the drawing (in this example ScottMN-F was set).

11. As a check, login into your A360 account and use the Geolocation tab to set the Online Map to Map Aerial.

12. From the Toolspace > Prospector > Point Clouds collection, right-click and pick Create Point Cloud.

13. In the Create Point Cloud window, Source Data > Use an Existing point cloud database:

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  • Set the Use an existing point cloud database.
  • Browse to and select the *.isd file created in Step 5 above.
  • Click Finish.  Once imported, the point cloud should be in the correct location and have imperial X, Y, and Z values.
I4 PointCloudDb Imperial

14. Select the point cloud, and from the Point Cloud contextual tab, select Add Points to Surface.

15. Save the file.

16. Continue with your design.

Note: the steps indicated are those used for my specific data.  Your data may dictate modifications to some of the steps (such as the coordinate system).  Even though the data may be different, the process should be the same.

The process presented here does not indicate every menu or command used, it assumes that the user is familiar with Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D 2016, is comfortable with the standard process and has the appropriate styles created for the data.

The LiDAR data that I am using for this example was downloaded from the MnGeo website and was extracted using the LASTOOL program.

Remember, let’s be careful out there and SAVE often.

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