How to access restricted data in OpenTopography

OpenTopography is primarily supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation's Division of Earth Sciences, with a primary mandate to support academic research and education. Due to limited resources, we are unable to provide on-demand processing for all users for certain datasets. In particular, OpenTopography's value-added services applied to NOAA Coastal Lidar, USGS 3DEP, ArcticDEM and REMA (Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica) collections have restrictions. There are many unrestricted datasets available from OpenTopography as well. Please review the information below for options on accessing restricted data.

1. US academic community with a .edu email address:

Members of the the US academic community have full access to restricted datasets in OpenTopography. Step 1: Create an OpenTopography account with your .edu email address. Step 2: Navigate to any restricted dataset page and click the "Enable Access" button located below the dataset map. Access is granted for a 1 year period and can be renewed annually.

2. K-12 teachers, international academics, and informal educators:

K-12 teachers, international academics, and informal educators interested in accessing restricted data via OpenTopography are invited to apply by submitting an application for access. A committee will review these applications periodically. Access will be granted access to restricted data for 1 year. Applicants must re-apply annually. Applications that do not conform to the review criteria will be rejected without review.

Please send completed applications to Provide a narrative explanation (<400 words) of your relevant qualifications. Indicate how you plan to use the data and describe the benefits to your students and/or community. OpenTopography uses these cases to demonstrate the impact of our services and to provide a measure of OpenTopography's success, helping to ensure continued funding.

Review criteria: (1) Applicants must have a MyOpenTopo account at the time of application. An account is free and easy to make here. (2) Applications are ideally received from an institutional email address. Applications from a personal (e.g., gmail) or other non-institutional email addresses are strongly discouraged. If your status as an educator is not clear from your email, include other evidence of your affiliation. For example, a faculty or staff page at an educational institution. (3) Explain your role and how you plan to utilize access to OpenTopography’s services. Examples of appropriate uses include: Development of educational resources, teaching/classroom instruction, undergraduate and graduate thesis research.

3. Commercial, hobby, and government users:

OpenTopography+. The OpenTopography+ pilot (OT+) is an opportunity for non-academic users to access OT’s value-added services applied to otherwise restricted access data. OT+ participants have access to OpenTopography's browser-based processing tools to generate custom Digital Elevation Models (inc. DTMs, DSMs, CHMs), contour lines, topographic hillshades, 3D point cloud visualizations, hydrology products, and vertical change maps. Learn more and sign-up here.

Learn more about OT+

Restricted Datasets

USGS 3DEP Lidar Collection

The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) is an ambitious effort to complete the acquisition of nationwide lidar (IfSAR in AK) to provide the first-ever national baseline of consistent high-resolution elevation data – bare earth and 3D point clouds & 1 m raster data– collected in a timeframe of less than a decade. By the end of 2023, USGS and federal, state, local and non-government partners have collected high resolution topography data over 94% of the United States . Thanks to USGS efforts in the last year to migrate these data into the cloud, led by Hobu, Inc. and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) in collaboration with AWS Public Dataset Program.

NOAA Digital Coast Lidar Collection

The NOAA Coastal Lidar Data is a collection of lidar projects from many different sources and agencies, geographically focused on the coastal areas of the United States of America. The data is stored in the entwine point tile format, and hosted on Amazon as part of the AWS Public Dataset Program.  Elevation data are collected using a green laser for bathymetry and a green or near-infrared laser for topography. Data derive from the Joint Airborne Lidar Bathymetry Technical Center of Expertise (JALBTCX) and are coordinated through the Interagency Working Group–Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IWG-OCM).

ArcticDEM and REMA

The ArcticDEM and REMA (Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica) are National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)-National Science Foundation (NSF) funded initiatives led by the Polar Geospatial Center (PGC) at the University of Minnesota. These datasets are high-resolution, high-quality digital surface models (DSM) of the polar regions produced using optical stereo imagery, high-performance computing, and open-source photogrammetry software.