3D Elevation Program (3DEP)

What is 3DEP?

To respond to growing needs for high-quality elevation data, the goal of 3DEP is to complete acquisition of nationwide lidar (IfSAR in AK) by 2023 to provide the first-ever national baseline of consistent high-resolution topographic elevation data – both bare earth and 3D point clouds – collected in a timeframe of less than a decade.  

3DEP Lidar and IfSAR technology used to create DEM, DSM, Lidar point cloud images

Four Images created with 3DEP-quality lidar and IfSAR technology. Left to right, clockwise: Digital Elevation Model of the Red River near Fargo, ND; IfSAR Digital Surface Model; Lidar point cloud image of Dulles Airport, VA; Lidar point cloud image of the transportation network in Denver, CO.

The 3D Elevation Program is managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Geospatial Program to respond to growing needs for high-quality topographic data and for a wide range of other three-dimensional (3D) representations of the Nation's natural and constructed features. 3DEP informs critical decisions that are made across our Nation every day that depend on elevation data, ranging from immediate safety of life, property, and environment to long term planning for infrastructure projects.

3DEP is based on the results of the National Enhanced Elevation Assessment (NEEA) that was funded by National Digital Elevation Program (NDEP) agencies and completed in 2011. The study, led by the USGS, identified more than 600 requirements for enhanced (3D) elevation data to address mission-critical information requirements of 34 Federal agencies, all 50 States, and a sample of private sector companies and Tribal and local governments. 

The first full year of 3DEP production began in 2016 and at the end of fiscal year 2020 78% of the Nation has available or in progress elevation data that meet 3DEP specifications for high accuracy and resolution. We must also continue to look forward to the challenges of completing nationwide coverage and meeting growing needs for higher quality data, repeat coverage, and new products and services.

NOAA and USGS are sponsoring the 3D Nation Requirements and Benefits Study, which will update the NEEA study and collect requirements and benefits from users of inland, coastal, and offshore bathymetry data.