Lidar is used to detect potential obstacles that present hazards to air navigation.
The 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) initiative is being developed to respond to growing needs for high-quality topographic data and for a wide range of other three-dimensional representations of the Nation's natural and constructed features. The primary goal of 3DEP is to systematically collect enhanced elevation data in the form of high-quality light detection and ranging (lidar) data over the conterminous United States, Hawaii, and the U.S. territories, with data acquired over an 8-year period. Interferometric synthetic aperture radar (ifsar) data will be collected over Alaska, where cloud cover and remote locations preclude the use of lidar over much of the State. The 3DEP initiative is based on the results of the National Enhanced Elevation Assessment.
Applications - A Few Examples
3DEP will provide expanded benefits to a range of Federal, State, local, and private industry applications. Some examples of the value of improved elevation data include:
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) expects that a national enhanced elevation program could reduce the amount of time needed to update its flood maps. These enhanced data could provide significant benefits to the communities and citizens that are customers of the National Flood Insurance Program. For example, updated information could be delivered to affected communities and homeowners more quickly.
- Using lidar data, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists discovered a surface rupture along the Tacoma fault in the State of Washington. This discovery led to a redesign of the structural elements of a $735-million suspension bridge across the Tacoma Narrows. When lidar data enable the identification of active faults near major infrastructure, mitigation steps may be taken to avoid potential catastrophes.
- In the State of Alaska, poor-quality elevation data pose an ongoing threat to aviation safety. Improved elevation data for cockpit navigation and flight simulators may save lives each year by reducing accidents resulting from the inability to safely fly over obstacles in airspace.
- In 2010, an estimated 262.3 million acres of farm lands were harvested in the United States at total product values of $356.2 billion. The value to America's farmers of public domain lidar for all precision agriculture nationwide is believed to be potentially worth up to $2 billion annually.
Transition to 3DEP
High-resolution lidar image of Mount St. Helens, Washington
Today, the USGS offers a wide variety of elevation data products and services from the National Elevation Dataset (NED) at various resolutions. The Center for Lidar Coordination and Knowledge (CLICK) holds lidar source files for download. The NED and CLICK activities will continue until a full transition to 3DEP is completed. 3DEP planning and research is underway at the USGS to transition to a unified service that will provide both gridded bare earth data products and point cloud data, along with capabilities to produce other derived elevation surfaces and products from 3D data During fiscal years 2013 and 2014, customers will begin to see evidence of this transition.
In addition to transitioning to new systems and services, the USGS is investigating how to begin implementing 3DEP data acquisition partnerships. Goals include moving to higher quality data specifications and larger project areas. Discussions are underway with the National Digital Elevation Program (http://www.ndep.gov/) and with state and local partners about how to advance these 3DEP objectives while the program is in development.
Another element of 3DEP data acquisition that is already underway is ifsar data acquisition for Alaska. Numerous Federal and State government activities depend on access to accurate, up-to-date topographic maps and data, however, modern mapping information does not exist over the majority of land in Alaska. To address this issue, the Department of the Interior and the State of Alaska conducted an Alaska Roundtable meeting, which led to the establishment of the Alaska Mapping Executive Committee, chaired by the Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, Anne Castle. The Committee is collaborating with the Alaska Statewide Digital Mapping Initiative to complete acquisition of statewide ifsar data as its first priority.
Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS)
MAPPS Statement on 3DEP
"MAPPS believes 3DEP will promote economic growth, facilitate responsible environmental protection and resource development and management, assist with infrastructure improvement, and generally enhance the quality of life of all Americans."
National Digital Elevation Program (NDEP)
Endorsement for a 3D Elevation Program
"The NDEP member agencies endorse the 3D Elevation Program recommendations
to achieve national coverage of high quality elevation data and to make
that data easily accessible to anyone. NDEP will use 3DEP guidelines and
principles in planning and coordinating its activities as allowed by
respective agency requirements and resources."
National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC)
2013 Advocacy Agenda
"The US Geological Survey (USGS) is working to launch their 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). Before doing so, they worked with the National Digital Elevation Program (NDEP), which coordinates the needs of 12 federal agencies and NSGIC. USGS' own products have used 10' elevation contours. A cost benefit study of multiple users showed a high return on investment from enhanced elevation data products derived from LiDAR, including derived 1' contours. Key components of 3DEP include a cooperative funding model and options for data quality upgrades to meet State, local and scientific investigation needs. NSGIC applauds this approach and encourages the full development and funding of the 3DEP program."
Letter of Support for the National Enhanced Elevation Program
"On behalf of the Board of Directors and state members of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), I would like to express our strong support for implementation of the recommended National Enhanced Elevation Program."
- Dr. Timothy M. De Troye, GISP; President, National States Geographic Information Council
National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC)
April 17-18, 2012 Meeting Summary
"The NGAC endorses a national elevation program (i.e., 3D Elevation Program, or 3DEP) as described in the National Enhanced Elevation Assessment conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The NGAC encourages the USGS, the Department of the Interior, and Federal partner agencies to refine, adopt, and implement this program in partnership with other levels of government, academia, and the private sector."
- National Elevation Dataset
- The National Elevation Dataset (NED) is the primary elevation data product of the USGS. The NED is a seamless dataset with the best available raster elevation data for the conterminous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. territorial islands.
- USGS Center for Lidar Information Coordination and Knowledge
- CLICK is a clearinghouse for lidar point cloud data and provides a community forum for information exchange.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Digital Coast
- The Digital Coast provides tools, training, and information needed to turn geospatial data into information used by coastal resource managers.
- The United States Interagency Elevation Inventory (USIEI)
The USIEI was completed in May 2012 and serves to combine and display high-accuracy topographic and bathymetric data for the United States and its territories. The project is a collaborative effort of NOAA and the USGS, with contributions from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Graphic representation of topo-bathymetric data for Mobile Bay, Alabama