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March 14, 2017

Collaboration funding continues to move the 3D Elevation Program forward

The U.S. Geological Survey has announced the first round of recipients of the 2017 partnership funding awards for the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). This program presents an annual opportunity for collaboration between the USGS and other federal, state and local agencies to leverage the expertise and capacity of private sector mapping firms that acquire high-quality, three-dimensional mapping data of the United States.

“The strong response we received for this opportunity shows that support for the 3DEP initiative continues to grow”, said Kevin Gallagher, USGS Associate Director for Core Science Systems. “Leveraging funds and improving coordination across all levels of government through these awards has allowed us to achieve cost efficiencies by collecting data over larger areas.”

Thus far in 2017, partnership funding has been awarded to 33 proposals in 24 states. These projects are expected to result in the addition of just over 125,000 square miles of public domain lidar point cloud data and derived elevation products into the 3DEP data holdings.

These 2017 awards are the result of a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the 3D Elevation Program, issued on August 11, 2016. (Fed Biz Opps G16PS00711 and G16AS00121). The BAA is a publicly accessible process to develop partnerships for the collection of lidar data for 3DEP.

3DEP is a cooperative activity with a primary goal to collect nationwide Quality Level 2 lidar data, with Quality Level 5 IfSAR data in Alaska, over an 8-year period. 3DEP is backed by a comprehensive study that conservatively estimates that elevation data provides new benefits of $690 million/year with the potential to generate $13 billion/year in new benefits through applications that span the economy.

Lidar, short for light detection and ranging, is collected from aircraft by using sensors that detect the reflections of a pulsed laser beam. The reflections are recorded as millions of individual points, collectively called a “point cloud,” that represent the three-dimensional (3D) positions of objects on the surface of the Earth. Similarly, IfSAR, short for interferometric synthetic aperture radar is used to collect data over Alaska due to the frequent cloud cover, rugged terrain and remote locations there.

Current and accurate 3D elevation data are needed to support important applications, including flood-risk management, precision agriculture, infrastructure projects, natural resources management, and helping communities cope with natural hazards such as floods and landslides.

Federal funds to support this opportunity were provided by the USGS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The USGS is acting in a management role to facilitate planning and acquisition for the broader community, through the use of government contracts and partnership agreements.

More information about 3DEP including updates on current and future 3DEP partnership opportunities is available online.


Map portraying FY17 Lidar Partnership awards
Map depicts the status of BAA awards to date. Project selection is ongoing and will be posted at the 3DEP website. The FY17 3DEP data acquisition is projected to add more than 125,000square miles of 3DEP quality lidar data to the national database. Complete project list.(USGS)

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