3D Elevation Program (3DEP)

Program Benefits and Uses


3DEP can conservatively provide new benefits of $690 million per year and has the potential to generate $13 billion per year in new benefits through applications that span the economy (Dewberry, 2012). The shared lidar, IfSAR, and derived elevation datasets would foster cooperation and improve decisionmaking among all levels of government and other stakeholders.

► Reduced Acquisition Costs and Risks

A funded national program will provide the following:

  • Economy of scale by acquiring data for larger areas and reducing acquisition costs by 25 percent.
  • Predictable, efficient, and flexible Federal investments that reduce costs for and allow better planning by Federal, State, Tribal, U.S. territorial, and local government partners, including the option of “buying up” to acquire higher quality data.
  • Consistent, high-quality national coverage that (1) provides data ready for applications that span project, jurisdictional, and watershed boundaries, (2) meets multiple needs, and (3) increases benefits to citizens.
  • Simpler data acquisition that provides contracts, published data-acquisition specifications, and specialized quality assurance and information technology expertise. Partners reduce their risks and can concentrate on their business activities.


► High-Quality Data

For the conterminous United States, Hawaii, and the U.S. territories, the USGS and its partners acquire quality level 2 or better aerial lidar data. Quality level 2 data have a minimum nominal pulse spacing of 0.7 meters and a vertical error of 10 centimeters, measured as root mean square error in the elevation (z) dimension (RMSEz). Statewide for Alaska, quality level 5 IfSAR data are acquired that have a vertical error of 185 centimeters RMSEz. The data must have been acquired during the previous eight years. For more information, see the Lidar Base Specification available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/tm/11b4/.