National Land Imaging Program: External Engagement

Science Center Objects

The National Land Imaging Program’s ongoing engagement with numerous external partners and stakeholders is what keeps the remote sensing world spinning.

The Federal Government spends an estimated $3 billion on civil Earth observations annually, funding systems, sensors, and surveys that enable better understanding of atmospheric, oceanic, and land surface phenomena. Information derived from Earth observations helps to fulfill agency missions of advancing public safety, enhancing quality of life, and strengthening the economy.

None of these outcomes would be possible without strategic coordination, cooperation, and communication across agencies, governments, private industry, academia, non-governmental organizations, and the public at large. The National Land Imaging (NLI) Program therefore collaborates closely with numerous external partners and stakeholders in the following efforts:

Policy and Planning: Regional, national, and international coordination of policies and plans to ensure the strategic use of resources and avoid duplication of effort

Multilateral Collaboration: Cooperation with diverse partners to combine resources and leverage capabilities to achieve a common goal

Bilateral Partnerships: Programmatic commitments and coordination to enhance Earth observation capabilities and better address user needs  

Socioeconomic Benefits: Understanding and conveying how Earth observation-enabled goods and services contribute to environmental, economic, and societal well-being

Stakeholder Engagement: Sharing information and gaining understanding of stakeholder equities and needs, whether they be end users, agency partners, the academic community, or commercial or international collaborators

The NLI Program is closely engaged with the following organizations and coordination groups:

  • U.S. Group on Earth Observations (USGEO)
  • Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC)
  • Department of the Interior Remote Sensing Working Group
  • Landsat Science Team
  • International Charter on Space and Major Disasters
  • AmericaView
  • Civil Applications Committee
  • Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS)
  • National Geospatial Advisory Council Landsat Advisory Group (NGAC LAG)


The US Group on Earth Observations (USGEO) and the National Plan for Civil Earth Observations

As Co-Chair of USGEO, the National Land Imaging Program has a direct role in planning and coordinating Federal Earth observations, research, and activities.

Color illustration of Earth

Whether it's radar, lidar, photography, or other type of measurement and data collection system, satellite remote sensors are constantly observing the Earth. 

USGEO’s Role and Organization

The U.S. Group on Earth Observations (USGEO) is a subcommittee of the White House National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on the Environment. The NSTC provides the principal means by which the Executive Branch coordinates science and technology policy across Federal departments and agencies. Currently, the Committee on the Environment coordinates interagency work related to polar research, ocean sciences, Earth observations, and other areas.

USGEO’s governing purpose is to serve as the interagency coordination mechanism for Federal Agencies’ civil Earth observation activities. USGEO is co-chaired by representatives of the Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Fifteen total departments, agencies, and executive offices are represented on the subcommittee. The functions of USGEO include planning and coordinating Federal Earth observations, fostering improved data management and interoperability, identifying high-priority user needs for Earth observation data, and formulating U.S. positions and participation in the international Group on Earth Observations (GEO).

U.S. Group on Earth Observation partners color logos

Member agencies, departments, and executive offices of the U.S. Group on Earth Observations (USGEO).

The National Plan for Civil Earth Observations

In 2019, USGEO published the National Plan for Civil Earth Observations to help coordinate Federally supported Earth observations and investments, identify opportunities to advance Earth observations, and achieve national Earth observation policy objectives. Three specific goals are outlined as a part of the plan:

  1. Supporting and balancing the portfolio of Earth observations by focusing on the provisioning and availability of Earth observations collected by both the public, academic, and private and international sectors (collectively referred to as the “Earth Observations Enterprise”).

Although Federal agencies rely on a core set of Federally funded observations to conduct their missions, this goal recognizes the rapidly advancing commercial sector in providing innovations and new concepts and products in both observation systems and analytical services. Federal agencies, in cooperation with other members of the Enterprise, will lead the development of new and agile ways of working together to take advantage of these capabilities.

  1. Emphasizing the long-term engagement with the Earth observations Enterprise to accelerate the uptake and use of Earth observations.

The components of the Earth Observations Enterprise are heterogeneous in their composition and culture. Therefore, understanding this landscape and engaging with all Enterprise stakeholders is important to build mutually beneficial relationships to advance the societal benefits of Earth observations.

  1. Increasing the impact of Earth observations through innovative and multi-use applications; using systematic methods of understanding value; collaborating in international fora; and developing a skilled and capable workforce.

The United States is a leader in championing the sharing of Earth observation information globally and will remain engaged in international coordinating bodies advocating for and promoting accessible data policies. This plan recognizes that a diverse and capable workforce with strong skills in geospatial fusion, visual analytics, data science, and machine learning is essential for jobs of the future.

More information about USGEO and the action items planned to meet the goals of the National Plan for Civil Earth Observation can be found here.


Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) and the National Land Imaging Program

Since its inception, CEOS has advanced international Earth observation satellite coordination to maximize the data’s global benefits.

Color logo of Committee on Earth Observations

The Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) harmonizes Earth observation satellite efforts amongst international stakeholders.

Committee on Earth Observation Satellites

The Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) is a consortium of roughly 60 agencies worldwide that work together to ensure international coordination of civil, space-based, Earth observation programs. CEROS was established in 1984 in response to a recommendation from a panel of experts convened by the Group of Seven (G7) Economic Summit of Industrial Nations Working Group on Growth, Technology, and Employment.  The Working Group recognized that the multidisciplinary nature of space-based Earth observations requires international coordination to maximize their utility and value.

The nature and circumstances surrounding the collection and use of space-based Earth observations have changed drastically since then, including but not limited to:

  • The increasing number of Earth-observing satellites
  • An ever-growing complexity of instruments and the volume of collected data
  • A rapidly-growing and increasingly diverse user community
  • The emergence of multiple international bodies utilizing global Earth observations to address the world’s most pressing challenges

CEOS played an influential role in the establishment and ongoing development of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and its Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). CEOS also provides an established means of communicating with external organizations, enabling CEOS members to better understand and respond to these organizations’ Earth observation needs and requirements.

CEOS achieve its objectives through three main mechanisms:

  1. Working Groups: CEOS Working Groups address cross-cutting topics such as calibration/validation, data portals, capacity building, disaster management, climate, and common data processing standards shared across a wide range of Earth observation domains. The current working groups include: Capacity Building & Data Democracy, Climate, Calibration and Validation, Disasters, Information Systems & Services
  2. Virtual Constellations: The CEOS Virtual Constellations coordinate space-based, ground-based, and/or data delivery systems to meet a common set of requirements within a specific domain. They leverage interagency collaboration and partnerships to address observation gaps, sustain the routine collection of critical observations, and minimize duplication/overlaps, while maintaining the independence of individual CEOS Agency contributions. Virtual Constellations exist for: Atmospheric Composition, Land Surface Imaging, Ocean Color Radiometry, Ocean Surface Topography, Ocean Surface Vector Wind, Precipitation, Sea Surface Temperature
  3. Ad Hoc Teams: CEOS has the ability to create an Ad Hoc Team in the event that permanent mechanisms (Working Groups and Virtual Constellations) are insufficient for CEOS to undertake a particular activity. Currently there are two active Ad Hoc teams addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and Coastal Observations and Applications.
Color graphic of Landsat ARD tiles

Landsat Analysis Ready Data (ARD) significantly reduces data processing required by end users and streamlines the scientific application process.

The USGS Role in CEOS

USGS has been a member of CEOS since 2000. USGS served as the CEOS Chair in 2007 and 2017, participates in multiple CEOS Working Groups, and is currently a co-lead for the Land Surface Imaging Virtual Constellation (LSI-VC). The efforts of the LSI-VC are focused on providing analysis-ready land-imaging data quickly and easily to countries and international organizations. These efforts encompass the CEOS Analysis Ready Data for Land (CARD4L) initiative. To support CARD4L, USGS is defining a Landsat product that is interoperable with other systems, such as Europe’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite program.

USGS continues to participate in multiple CEOS efforts. More information on CEOS can be found here. More information on USGS’s support to CEOS can be found here.


USGS Landsat International Cooperator Network

Since inception, the Landsat program has been an important component of U.S. foreign policy and science and technology strategies.

Landsat International Cooperator Patch

USGS Landsat International Cooperator Network patch. The USGS is the primary coordinator across 18 actively operating International Ground Stations spanning 12 countries around the world, each providing an essential dimension to the joint USGS and NASA agency Landsat mission.

The program’s longstanding network of International Cooperators (ICs), which operate numerous International Ground Stations (IGSs) around the world, embodies the U.S.’s policy of peaceful use of outer space and the worldwide dissemination of civil space technology to improve societal decision-making from national governments to local citizens. Currently there are 18 actively operating IGSs spanning 12 countries around the world, each providing an essential dimension to the joint USGS and NASA agency Landsat mission. The reception capabilities of each station augment data collection capacity of the Landsat system, above and beyond that provided by the satellite on-board recorders and the Landsat Ground Network (LGN).

The historical Landsat data downlinked to the IGSs are currently being added to the USGS Landsat archive by way of the Landsat Global Archive Consolidation (LGAC) initiative. For Landsat 8 (and eventually Landsat 9), all data downlinked to IGSs are also written to the satellite on-board recorder and downlinked to the LGN for inclusion in the USGS Landsat archive. Therefore, during nominal Landsat mission operations no unique data are held at the IGSs. However, the Landsat IGSs provide contingency data collection capacity to the LGN in the event of a spacecraft anomaly or malfunction. Additionally, the expertise of ICs in applying Landsat data to local and regional user needs can facilitate further USGS scientific and application development for Landsat data in the U.S. and worldwide.

The USGS meets with the Landsat ICs twice per year to discuss operational management and technical matters through the Landsat Ground Station Operators Working Group (LGSOWG) and Landsat Technical Working Group (LTWG) meetings. These meetings are an essential forum for global Landsat cooperation and collaboration.

To learn more about the USGS Landsat IC Network please visit this interactive online interface. Organizations interested in pursuing direct access to Landsat 8 and/or Landsat 9 via data downlink should visit the Benefits of Becoming an IC page for more information.


Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and the National Land Imaging Program

The organization of Federal geospatial professionals and constituents to achieve common objectives would not exist without the Federal Geographic Data Committee.

Color Landsat image of surface water

Images taken from Landsat 8, including this one taken in January of 2020, is just one of the many federal sources of geographic data in the United States.

Federal Geographic Data Committee

The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) is an organization of Federal geospatial professionals and constituents that provide executive, managerial, and advisory direction and oversight for geospatial decisions and initiatives across the Federal government. The FGDC is governed by a policy-level interagency Steering Committee, whose central focus is to provide executive leadership for the coordination of Federal geospatial activities. A subset of the Steering Committee, known as the Executive Committee, is comprised of representatives of the seven Federal agencies with the largest investments in geospatial technologies, and advises the Steering Committee on major priorities and initiatives. Day-to-day business of the FGDC at the operational level is managed by the Coordination Group, which oversees subcommittees and working groups.

The FGDC’s responsibilities fall into two main categories: overseeing the related activities enumerated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (Circular A-16) and the implementation of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). The OMB specifies 34 Data Themes of national significance and assigns responsibility themes to Federal agencies. Currently, thematic subcommittees are established for nine of those Data Themes. The NSDI was a key component of the Geospatial Data Act of 2018.

National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI)

The NSDI consists of the technology, policies, criteria, standards, and employees necessary to promote geospatial data sharing throughout the Federal Government, State, tribal, and local governments, and the private sector, including nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education. The FGDC has initiated a process to develop a new Strategic Plan for the NSDI.  The Strategic Plan, which will be developed through collaboration with partners and stakeholders, will provide a framework to improve the coordination and management of the Nation’s geospatial assets and guide the further development of the NSDI.

Color graphic showing economic impact of Earth Observations

The economic impact of the U.S. Geospatial industry highlights the necessity of an advisory and committee to oversee interagency activities.

USGS and the National Land Imaging Program’s Role

DOI, USGS, and the National Land Imaging Program play critical roles within the FGDC. At the apex of the FGDC, the Secretary of the Interior chairs the Steering Committee. One of the nine thematic subcommittees for the FGDC is the National Digital Orthoimagery Program (NDOP), which supports the FGDC Imagery Theme and is co-chaired by the USGS National Land Imaging Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Production and Conservation Service.

NDOP is responsible for developing, promoting, and executing a national strategy for the acquisition or development of orthoimagery data for Federal agencies while creating and utilizing partnerships with State, local, trial, and private organizations. The NDOP is composed of U.S. civil overhead collection authorities and agencies; data managers and technical managers specializing in the qualification, certification, and use of imagery for U.S. civil government purposes; and public researchers who rely on operational orthoimagery resources in their work.

More information about the FGDC, NSDI, and NDOP can be found on their websites.

Color orthoimages showing land change

Orthoimagery, or imagery that has been geometrically corrected to improve horizontal accuracy, can present detailed imagery of land surface change such as these time-lapse images of the construction of the Hoover Dam Bypass bridge.

AmericaView and the National Land Imaging Program

Nationally coordinated but locally controlled, AmericaView is training the next generation of remote-sensing scientists.

In 1998, a USGS initiative in collaboration with several Ohio Universities led to research and education pilot project, OhioView, to overcome Landsat data access challenges. Two years later, impressed with the success of OhioView in leveraging the Federal investment in moderate-resolution remote sensing data, Congress instructed USGS to implement the vision nationwide as a consortium of member “StateViews.” AmericaView is the realization of this vision: a nationwide, university-based, and state-implemented consortium advancing the widespread use of remote-sensing data and technology through education and outreach, workforce development, applied research, and technology transfer to the public and private sector. AmericaView is funded through a grant from the USGS National Land Imaging Program.

AmericaView’s networks, facilities, and capabilities are highly leveraged and used for sharing and applying Landsat and other public-domain remotely sensed satellite data in a wide range of civilian applications, from formal and informal education, to ecosystem analysis and natural resources management, to disaster response. AmericaView’s primary goal is to support the many beneficial uses of remote sensing in service to society. Today, it consists of 39 member states with over 350 individual members.

Objectives and Impact to Date

According to AmericaView, at least 80% of decision-making by government and industry leaders reflects analysis of geospatial data for issues including emergency response, food production, urban planning, and public health. Therefore, AmericaView has a diverse set of objectives and actions to support to goals of the USGS grant:

  1. Strengthen the geospatial skills of the current workforce: This is accomplished by preparing qualified employees for the high-growth geospatial sector and providing educational resources for underrepresented groups in the geospatial field.
  2. Inspire and prepare the next generation of scientists: Education and outreach efforts starting with K-12 education levels are vital in creating and maintaining interest moving into the future. Related AmericaView activities include conducting grade-appropriate remote-sensing opportunities, providing curriculum materials to strengthen STEM education in classrooms, assisting teachers in meeting national and state education standards, and sponsoring national events such as an annual Earth Observation Day.
  3. Conduct natural resources applied research: With AmericaView’s unique position of being nationally coordinated but locally controlled, there are numerous opportunities to conduct university-led research projects. Studies conducted to date including improving our understanding of water availability and quality issues, studying the health of forests and grasslands, revealing heat islands in urban areas, identifying agricultural challenges and opportunities, and analyzing conditions along coastal zones.
  4. Facilitate access to remote-sensing imagery, data, applications and information: The previous objectives would not be possible without having access to remotely sensed imagery, data, applications, and information. AmericaView is developing capabilities such as the Earth Observation Depot Network, a scalable content-distribution system for high- to low- level data infrastructures. Furthermore, AmericaView reaches out to local and national end users such as decision makers, land-use planners, agricultural producers, water-quality specialists, natural-resource managers, researchers, teachers, and students to continue, promote, and support collaboration among them.
Color photo of AmericaView staff

AmericaView staff at a recent technical meeting in 2019

Over the past six years, AmericaView has reported massive increases in its impact across the remote sensing field, including but not limited to:

  • Trained or shared curriculum with nearly 35,000 K-12 students, 2,000 K-12 teachers, and 3,000 members of the current workforce
  • Established more than 35 new remote sensing courses or programs at the university level and built an education resource portal for its website
  • Delivered hundreds of presentations to thousands of attendees at national and international scientific and technology-sharing conferences, statewide geospatial data meetings, and other venues
  • Made accessible and/or archived terabytes of publicly available remote-sensing imagery and derivative information, hosting more than half a million visitors at member websites.

More information about AmericaView can be found here.  


International Charter on Space and Major Disasters and the National Land Imaging Program

In the event of major disasters, the Charter is able to mobilize the world’s Earth observation resources in a matter of hours to support critical humanitarian, relief, and response organizations and agencies.

Color logo of International Charter Space and Major Disasters

International Charter on Space and Major Disasters

International Charter on Space and Major Disasters

Conceived in 1999, the Charter is a worldwide collaboration, through which satellite data are made available for disaster response and management. By combining Earth observation assets from different space agencies, the Charter allows resources and expertise to be coordinated for rapid response to major disaster situations; thereby helping civil protection authorities and the international humanitarian community. This unique initiative can mobilize agencies around the world and benefit from their know-how and their satellites through a single access point that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and at no cost to the user.

In addition to the space agencies that form the Charter, national and regional disaster monitoring organizations also support the Charter's efforts as co-operating bodies. Members and co-operating bodies provide support to those in need following major disasters, and benefit from the wide distribution of data that the Charter offers. Currently the Charter has access to an Earth observation constellation comprised of 61 satellites and serves 126 countries. USGS is a longstanding Charter member and provides a range of Landsat and commercial imagery in support of Charter activations. 

Color satellite image of wildfire

Fires are just one example of a major disaster that can mobilize and activate the International Charter.

Activation of the Charter

The charter can be activated for a wide range of natural and anthropogenic disasters including cyclones, fires, earthquakes, floods, oil spills, volcanoes, landslides, epidemics, sandstorms, and technological disasters (e.g., airplane crashes, powerplant and factory failures). Since its inception, the charter has been activated for 657 disasters.

The Charter can be activated through several outlets:

  • An Authorized User within a national civil protection, rescue, or security organization
  • A qualified United Nations agency
  • The Sentinel Asia Program, via the Asian Disaster Reduction Centre, supporting regional collaboration for Earth observation-based emergency response for 31 Asia-Pacific countries

Once an activation is initiated, and the appropriate protocols are verified, 24-hour on-duty/on-call emergency operators and officers determine an acquisition plan based on the best available satellites, and plans are subsequently submitted to the proper agencies for tasking. The Charter is typically activated three to six times a month.

More information about the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters can be found here.


National Civil Applications Program (NCAP), Civil Applications Committee (CAC), and the National Land Imaging Program

The USGS NCAP, in close collaboration with the interagency CAC, organizes the use of classified remote sensing systems for the civil applications.

National Civil Applications Program

The National Civil Applications Program (NCAP) serves Federal civil agencies by providing for the acquisition, dissemination, and exploitation of classified remote sensing systems and data in support of mission responsibilities for land and resource management, environmental and scientific studies, homeland security, and hazards/disaster management. Civil applications of classified remotely sensed imagery began in 1969 when the USGS provided Federal civil agencies with access to imagery for various uses, including mapping, charting, geodesy, and management of the Nation's lands and resources.

The Civil Applications Committee (CAC) was established in 1975 to provide oversight and coordination of these activities, allowing civilian agencies to access classified images for non-military, non-classified purposes. The CAC is composed of 11 Federal departments and independent agencies. The USGS, through the Secretary of the Interior, is delegated responsibility to chair the CAC. The CAC supports Interior Department and other Federal civil agency use of classified data and systems for civil applications. This support occurs through following resources and activities:

  • Leadership to the Federal civil community in the understanding and use of classified assets
  • Infrastructure and expert application staff to support a wide range of civil applications utilizing classified data and assets
  • Integrated network access to classified remote sensing data and systems, and derivative information to address land and resource management, environmental hazards, and other scientific issues.

NCAP Activities

A variety of activities form the foundation of the NCAP. These program components support the needs of the entire Federal civil community in the use of classified remote sensing data.

  1. Collection Management

All requests for classified data by Federal civil agencies are reviewed, assigned priorities, and submitted by the CAC through the collection management team. Collection management functions also include assisting CAC member agencies with defining and documenting their data requirements, tasking for classified data, performing quality assurance checks on received data, and disseminating data to the customer.

  1. Security Services: Security provides policy and operational oversight of a risk management program to protect facilities, systems, information, and staff from compromising classified and sensitive information.
  2. Data Arching: USGS acquires, archives, and manages a vast amount of classified data on behalf of the entire civil community. The volume of data managed is growing through increasing agency requests and the increasing availability of new data.
  3. Hazard Support System: The Hazard Support System is a sophisticated detection and warning system that focuses on domestic wildfires and worldwide volcanic activity and ash clouds. The fuses the input from a variety of sensors to provide near real-time event detection and warning to civil customers.
  4. Image Data Exploitation: The NCAP develops advanced data exploitation and product generation systems to support the data production and analysis requirements of the USGS and the exploitation needs of other Federal civil agencies.
  5. Data Dissemination and Communications Network: The success of NCAP in meeting the needs of Federal civil users for rapid and efficient access to classified remote sensing data depends on the ability to provide advanced communications networks and systems that electronically transfer data between multiple sites.


Department of the Interior Remote Sensing Working Group

While USGS plays a leading role in remote sensing science support to the Department of the Interior, all bureaus fill critical remote sensing applications roles.

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DOI Logo

Department of the Interior Remote Sensing Working Group

U.S. National Space Policy recognized the Department of the Interior’s expertise and accomplishments the use of remote sensing for environmental monitoring and natural resource management. As a result, USGS is tasked with the following activities:

  • Conduct research on natural and human-induced changes to Earth’s land, land cover, and inland surface waters, and manage a global land surface data national archive
  • Determine the operational requirements for collection, processing, archiving, and distribution of land surface data to the U.S. Government and other users
  • Provide, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence, remote sensing information related to the environment and disasters that is acquired from national security space systems to other civil government agencies

The Department of the Interior Remote Sensing Working Group (DOIRSWG) releases an annual report highlighting a sample of the Department’s remote sensing applications and illustrates the many types of technology, platforms, and specialized sensors employed. The following descriptions are of how different bureaus within the Department use remote sensing to accomplish their missions:

  1. Bureau of Indian Affairs: The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) applies remote sensing to activities such as land use planning, responding to non-point source pollution affecting subsistence hunting and fishing, and climate change impacts such as sea-level rise for coastal Tribes, location and identification of potential dam hazards, and the generation of digital terrain data for the use of open-channel hydraulics. 
  2. Bureau of Land Management: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) requires field-based measurements to support management decisions covering vast expanses of public land. By integrating remote sensing into the BLM's Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring strategy, field-based monitoring data are leveraged to generate information and maps that would otherwise be too expensive to produce. The BLM is developing a core set of integrated and scalable remote sensing tools that will provide an integrated, quantitative monitoring approach to efficiently and effectively document the impacts from authorized and unauthorized disturbance and land treatment activities at local and regional scales.
  3. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management: The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Environmental Studies Program (ESP) develops, funds, and manages rigorous scientific research specifically to inform policy decisions on the development of energy and mineral resources on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.  BOEM uses remote sensing to inform its research covering physical oceanography, atmospheric sciences, biology, protected species, social sciences and economics, submerged cultural resources, and environmental effects.
  4. Bureau of Reclamation: The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) uses Landsat data to help monitor consumptive water use throughout the western United States. BOR analysts use Landsat imagery to map irrigated crops for estimating water demand and to monitor interstate and inter-basin water compact compliance. The BOR is also involved in ecological restoration of numerous rivers in the West. Light detection and ranging (lidar), multispectral aerial imagery, and sonar data are used to generate maps of topography, vegetation, and river channel bathymetry, which help guide restoration activities.
  5. Fish and Wildlife Service: The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), in concert with its international, Federal, Tribal, state, local, and non-government organization partners, uses multiple remote sensing technologies to find optimal solutions to monitor and manage fish and wildlife populations, habitats, waters, wetlands, and landscapes. The FWS utilizes acoustic geographic positioning systems (GPS), and radio telemetry sensors on fish and wildlife for time and location information tied to a variety of remote sensing image products such as aerial and satellite optical imagery, thermal, radar, sonar, and light detection and ranging (lidar) imagery.  This time and geospatial system of imagery and location is used to map habitats, find invasive plants, determine flight paths of birds and bats, conduct fish and wildlife inventories, watch over refuge lands, and monitor trust species.
  6. National Park Service: The National Park Service (NPS) has a substantial investment in and a long history of using aerial and spaceborne remote sensing and global positioning system (GPS) technologies. The NPS Inventory & Monitoring Program conducts baseline inventories for more than 270 parks across the Nation. Remote sensing data are a critical source of information regarding geology, soils, vegetation, and infrastructure.  Aerial photography and satellite imagery have been utilized to compile vegetation maps; a monumental task given the agency has responsibility for over 30 million acres. These data are particularly critical for NPS activities in Alaska, because of its remote and vast expanses of public land and the fact that the Arctic is warming rapidly in response to climate change.  The NPS utilizes the free Landsat archive to quantify decadal changes in glacier ice cover and document land cover change in national park units. The NPS has been the Department of Interior’s (DOI) sponsoring agency to map all large wildland and prescribed fires as part of the DOI Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity project, using the Landsat archive. GPS supports the Service’s field data collection, navigation, and search and rescue operations.
  7. Office of Surface Mining: The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) remote sensing program provides OSMRE offices, states, and Tribes with the necessary tools to use remote sensing technologies to support Titles IV (Abandoned Mine Lands) and V (Regulation of Current Mining) of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977.   As part of this support, the OSM remote sensing program provides high-resolution satellite imagery, aerial photography, and light imaging and detection (lidar) data to conduct analysis of terrain, vegetation, and hydrologic function on active mine sites to ensure reclamation is consistent with the approved mining permit.  These data are also used to support inventory, monitoring, and assessment of abandoned mine land features to ensure there is no threat to the environment or to health and human safety.
  8. USGS: The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is both a user and a provider of remotely sensed data. USGS manages the Landsat satellite series and a Web-enabled archive of global Landsat imagery dating back to 1972. Landsat represents the world’s longest continuously acquired collection of space-based moderate-resolution land remote sensing data, and the entire archive became available for download at no charge in December 2008. USGS also distributes aerial photography through The National Map, and archives and distributes historical aerial photography, light detection and ranging (lidar) data, declassified imagery, hyperspectral imagery, data collected by Unmanned Aircraft Systems, and imagery from a variety of government, foreign, and commercial satellites. These data are used for a wide variety of applications such as mineral resource development, monitoring the health of U.S. and global ecosystems, land use change, emergency response, and assessments of natural hazards such as fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and floods.

More about the Department of the Interior Remote Sensing Working Group and the reports that they publish can be found here.


Landsat Science Team and the National Land Imaging Program

Landsat Science Team members are tasked to provide scientific and technical evaluations on topics that are deemed important across the Landsat user community.

Landsat Science Team

LCMAP Primary Land Cover (LCPRI) product for an area over Portland, Oregon for product year 2005.

The Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) initiative represents a new generation of land cover mapping, as seen in this data product sample of primary land cover for an area over Portland, Oregon in 2005

The Landsat Science Teams consist of USGS and NASA scientists and engineers, and external scientists, engineers, and application specialists, representing government, industry and university research initiatives. The Science Teams are tasked with providing scientific and technical evaluations to the USGS and NASA to help ensure the continued success of the Landsat program. Evaluations fall into three broad categories:

  1. Data Characterization: This category includes assessing the performance of new remote sensing instruments, cross-comparing Landsat with other remote sensing instruments, and developing analytical methods and techniques to integrate Landsat data with other land imaging satellites.
  2. Landsat Science Data Products: Evaluations include defining new innovative Landsat standard and derived products, as well as discerning the requirements, strategies, algorithms, and approaches for new products.
  3. Data Applications:This category includes advancing methods and strategies for multi-decadal and large-area land change assessments, developing new applications and research capabilities resulting from the Landsat free data policy, and estimating the value of Landsat for addressing societal issues.

While the Landsat Science Team is an advisory panel, members are tasked with addressing specific objectives that fall within the scope of the evaluation categories. These objectives include representing and advocating for user needs/requirements, providing science-based feedback on critical design issues, contributing to the specification and design of data acquisition and access strategies, and conducting experiments on science and applications elements of the Landsat program. Members also participate in external representation tasks.


Color photo of 2018-2023 Landsat Science Team

The 2018-2023 Landsat Science Team

(Public domain.)

Current Landsat Science Team Goals

The team is comprised of 21 scientists and engineers representing the Federal Government, academia, industry, and international organizations for five-year terms. USGS and NASA Project Scientists co-chair the team. The five-year goal of this Landsat Science Team is to ensure that Landsat 9 data and relevant data from future Landsat missions are completely integrated with past Landsat data to meet the needs of current users and enable new applications. In addition, it is increasingly important that data from international sources (e.g., the European Copernicus Sentinel-2 missions), as well as commercial sources, are synergistically exploited and harmonized with the Landsat record.

Measuring Success

The success of Landsat missions is marked by the effective integration of newly acquired data with past and present remotely sensed data for the purpose of observing and monitoring global environmental systems. It is supported through the clarity scientific research, productivity and originality of sponsored science, applicability of enhanced science and engineering, and increased visibility brought to the Landsat Program.

For more information about the Landsat Science Team, please visit the Landsat Missions web site.


National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) Landsat Advisory Group (LAG)

The LAG provides important, external, expert perspectives to USGS leadership on the effective conduct of USGS land-imaging activities. 

Color satellite imagery of irrigation in Saudi Arabia

These false color images were captured in 1987 and  2012 over Saudi Arabia. Only Landsat’s extensive time series would be capable of capturing this change.

(Public domain.)

National Geospatial Advisory Committee

The National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) is a Federal Advisory Committee sponsored by the Department of Interior which reports directly to the Chair of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (the Secretary of the Interior). This Advisory Committee is tasked with providing advice and recommendations relating to the management of Federal and national geospatial programs as well as the development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, reviewing and commenting on geospatial policy and management issues, and ensuring the views of representatives of non-Federal interested parties involved in national geospatial activities are conveyed to the Federal Geographic Data Committee.

Landsat Advisory Group

Established in 2012 as a subgroup of the NGAC, the Landsat Advisory Group (LAG) provides advice to USGS on the requirements, objectives, and actions of the Landsat Program as they apply to continued delivery of societal benefits for the Nation and the global Earth observation community. The LAG consists of members from industry, non-profit organizations, and academia. Currently, LAG members are working on three active tasks:

  1. A report on the unique value of Landsat’s radiometric, geometric, and spectral precision for the delivery of research, public, and commercial services.
  2. Recommendations on a potential Big Data Science Government Challenge, to incentivize the development of innovative methods to exploiting Landsat Analysis Ready Data for time-series analysis and land change forecasting.
  3. Provide a modernized interpretation of the 1992 Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992 to inform future land remote sensing policy decision makers while remaining consistent with the spirit of the existing language.

More information on NGAC and LAG can be found here.