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3D Mapping Data's Future: 8 Examples

Federal agencies, academia, communities, and the private sector are collaborating on advanced US mapping data as part of the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). Look what these maps can do.

Communities have a growing need for current and accurate three-dimensional mapping data that will aid preparation for natural disasters like floods and landslides. Such data is also essential in supporting the nation's infrastructure, agriculture, and security. To address the issue, the US Geological Survey (USGS), along with other government agencies and the private sector, recently launched the 3D Elevation Program(3DEP) to replace outdated and inconsistent data.

The new program utilizes lidar to map the US in 3D. The remote sensing detection system is similar to radar, but it uses light from a laser. The goal of 3DEP is to systematically collect enhanced elevation data using lidar over an eight-year period. Alaska is one exception, where interferometric synthetic aperture radar (ifsar) will be used to collect data, since cloud cover and remote locations prevent the use of lidar.

Lidar accuracy is at least three times greater than previously possible when mapping the bare earth elevation. It also allows both natural and manmade features to be captured in great detail, Vicki Lukas, chief of NGP Topographic Data Services at USGS, told InformationWeek Government. The image above of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is one example.

"Lidar is a game-changing technology in enabling a huge range of applications, such as infrastructure and construction management," said Lukas.

Developing advanced mapping data and tools is part of a White House climate change action plan launched a year ago. In July, President Obama introduced a series of additional actionsand announced that $13.1 million would go toward 3DEP. The president said such data and tools will be an "essential component of supporting action on climate resilience," including flood risk management, water resource planning, easing coastal erosion and storm surge impacts, and identifying landslide hazards.

Read the rest of this article on InformationWeek

Elena Malykhina began her career at The Wall Street Journal, and her writing has appeared in various news media outlets, including Scientific American, Newsday, and the Associated Press. For several years, she was the online editor at Brandweek and later Adweek, where she ... View Full Bio

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