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Collaboration continues to move the 3D Elevation Program forward.

The U.S. Geological Survey has announced the first round of recipients of the 2020 partnership awards for the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP), comprising 25 proposals in 15 states. 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.

This program provides an annual opportunity for collaboration between the USGS and other federal, state, local and non-profit agencies to leverage the expertise and capacity of private sector mapping firms that acquire high-quality three-dimensional mapping data of the U.S.

“We are very pleased to see the continued growth of new 3DEP partnerships that will add to the 67 percent national coverage of 3DEP data acquisition that we reached at the end of last year” said Kevin Gallagher, USGS associate director for Core Science Systems. “Through this process and the incredible diversity of partnerships we have established across the Nation, our bold goal to complete national coverage is becoming more of a reality every year.”

These projects are expected to result in the addition of nearly 125,000 square miles of public domain lidar point cloud data and derived elevation products into the 3DEP data holdings. An additional 155,000 square miles of public domain 3D elevation data will be added through FY20 federal data acquisition partnerships.

Some highlights from the projects selected so far this year include a federal partnership to acquire lidar data for Yellowstone National Park in celebration of the park’s sesquicentennial anniversary; plans to complete 3DEP lidar coverage for the state of Colorado in cooperation with the Denver Regional Council of Governments and federal partners; and supporting the first phase of Minnesota’s state lidar acquisition plan with a project for the Rainy River – Lake of the Woods watershed on the US-Canada border.

These 2020 awards are the result of a Broad Agency Announcement for the 3DEP, issued on September 9, 2019. ( 140G0119R0029 and G19AS00124). The BAA is a publicly accessible process to develop partnerships for the collection of lidar data for 3DEP.

The goal of 3DEP is to collect nationwide lidar data (IfSAR data in Alaska), over an 8-year period to provide the first-ever consistent, high-resolution national elevation baseline dataset. 3DEP is backed by a comprehensive study which conservatively estimates that elevation data provides new benefits of $690 million annually with the potential to generate $13 billion annually 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.

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 depicts the status of BAA awards and  Lidar Partnerships to date
Map depicts the status of BAA awards and  Lidar Partnerships to date. Project selection is ongoing and updates will be posted to the 3DEP website.  (Public domain.)


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