A research team at Oregon State has developed a very fast ground filtering algorithm.
From the Abstract:
Ground filtering is a common procedure in lidar data processing, which separates the point cloud data into ground points and non-ground points. Effective ground filtering is helpful for subsequent procedures such as segmentation, classification, and modeling. Numerous ground filtering algorithms have been developed for Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) data. However, many of these are error prone in application to TLS data because of its different angle of view and highly variable resolution. Further, many ground filtering techniques are limited in application within challenging topography and experience difficulty coping with some objects such as short vegetation, steep slopes, and so forth. Lastly, due to the large size of point cloud data, operations such as data traversing, multiple iterations, and neighbor searching significantly affect the computation efficiency. In order to overcome these challenges, we present an efficient ground filtering method for TLS data via a Scanline Density Analysis, which is very fast because it exploits the grid structure storing TLS data.
Could be of real value.