Whether you are an engineer, a geospatial analyst, a drone pilot, a reality modeler, you have probably encountered numerous challenges on manipulating and analyzing 3D point clouds of any natural or manmade terrain.
In this farrago of 3D software (commercial or open source) one can evaluate and eventually trust, CloudCompare is a robust, open project environment for processing, editing and analyzing various 2.5D, 3D formats, though emphasizing more on Lidar, photogrammetric and terrestrial laser scan 3D point clouds (and 3D meshes).
Originally developed at EDF R&D by Daniel Girardeau-Montaut, it is a free to use, open-source project released in the public domain under GPL license, with many extended capabilities by the community as plugin extensions.
To begin with, import option serve a wide variety of 2D, 2.5D, 3D formats, from ASCII/LAS clouds, CAD/GIS entities, 3D meshes, to raster grids. Once data is imported, almost all 3D entities are considered as point clouds and are visualized within a main viewport, framed by the layers’ tree catalogue, selected entity properties window, and thematic toolbars with common viewing and display enhancement tools, main manipulation and analysis tools and more advanced plugins tools.
CloudCompare’s main use involves direct comparison between point clouds (or point clouds and meshes) for settlement or elevation change detection, registration and aligning features, and resampling techniques. More advanced tools focus on point cloud classification, surface filters and segmentation algorithms.
All features (per point color, normal, number of returns, intensity, etc.) and processing results (point distances between point clouds) associated to 3D Point Clouds are stored as multiple scalar fields, with georeference information applied. Scalar field values, associated to each point of a point cloud, can be displayed as colors, with default or custom color ramps (elevation, aspect, slope, land cover), while various computation algorithms and filters can be applied on them for highlighting different aspects of spatial analyses and cloud segmentation results relative to those values.
Overall, CloudCompare is an evolving 3D point cloud editing and processing software, which can handle huge point clouds and it is highly recommended for point clouds’ comparison, registration, and segmentation analyses. It is also worth noting the support from its developers and users’ community with various tools and plugins covering a wide range of spatial analyses challenges.