An airborne lidar simulator creates a lidar point cloud from a simulated lidar system, flight parameters, and the terrain digital elevation model (DEM). At the basic level, the lidar simulator computes the range from a lidar system to the surface of a terrain using the geomatics lidar equation. The simple computation effectively assumes that the beam divergence is zero. If the beam spot is meaningfully large due to the large beam divergence combined with high sensor altitude, then the beam plane with a finite size interacts with a ground target in a realistic and complex manner. The irradiance distribution of a delta-pulse beam plane is defined based on laser pulse radiative transfer. The airborne lidar simulator in this research simulates the interaction between the delta-pulse and a three-dimensional (3D) object and results in a waveform. The waveform will be convoluted using a system response function. The lidar simulator also computes the total propagated uncertainty (TPU). All sources of the uncertainties associated with the position of the lidar point and the detailed geomatics equations to compute TPU are described. The boresighting error analysis and the 3D accuracy assessment are provided as examples of the application using the simulator.
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