Modern mapping of Laos was first carried by French colonial authorities as part of their Indo-Chinese surveys, with triangulation completed by 1939 and 1:100,000 basic scale mapping published and revised prior to French disengagement in 1955. American aid after independence assisted the foundation of the national mapping agency, the Service Géographique National, which was redesignated as the National Geographic Department (NGD) in 1990. Complete photogrammetric 1:50,000, 1:100,000 and 1:250,000 scale mapping of the country was carried out based upon the Transverse Mercator projection until American withdrawal in 1975. More recent series, however, reflect Russian investment after 1975, and conform to Soviet standards, using the Gauss conformal transverse cylindrical projection, Krassovsky ellipsoid, with sheet numbering and breakdown from International Map of the World sheet lines. Sheets were published with French place names. 1:100,000 scale mapping in 175 sheets was revised from new aerial coverage and fitted to the new specifications. A 51 sheet 1:200,000 scale coverage has also been published. 1:500,000 and 1:1 000,000 scale series were also prepared. Other publications include administrative mapping and simple maps of major towns.
Soviet military topographic mapping of Laos exists at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (5 sheets, complete coverage, published 1961-1973); 1:500,000 (12 sheets, complete coverage, published 1964-1991); 1:200,000 (55 sheets, complete coverage, published 1963-1983); 1:100,000 (176 sheets, complete coverage, published 1974-1991) and a city (1:10,000) topographic map of Vientiane published in 1979. These products are available in print, digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.
The Direction de la Géologie et des Mines (DGM) is responsible for geological surveying in Laos, with 1:500,000 scale geological coverage in 11 sheets. More recent mapping includes a project financed through the Asian Development Bank, with the collaboration of the British Geological Survey (BGS), which resulted in 1990 in the publication of a full-color 1:1,000,000 scale geological and minerals map of the country. Separate small-scale mineral and geological coverage of the country was also published in 1990 by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Bangkok, as sheets in the Atlas of mineral resources.
In 1976 the Soil Research Center was established in the Ministry for Forestry and Agriculture.
In 1990 a major land use monitoring program was established with Swedish aid in the National Office for Forest Inventory and Management. This planned to complete 1:250,000 scale land use mapping, with sample areas compiled at 1:50,000 scale.
International Travel Maps (ITM), Vancouver published a tourist map of Laos in 1996 in its International travel map series, and Laos is also covered on a recently published sheet from Institut Géographique National (IGN) Paris.