To encourage geospatial data collection and foster information sharing, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) launched the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) three years ago. 3DEP is a valuable tool, but many state and local agencies may be unaware of the program, unsure of how to build partnerships to meet their needs, or fully understand the process.
The 3DEP initiative is designed to identify elevation data gaps, foster partnerships among groups that have common geospatial needs and project scopes, help minimize costs and improve the impact of a project. It addresses the growing needs for high- quality topographic data and a wide range of other 3-D representations of the country’s natural and constructed features, leveraging high-quality light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data.
This article provides a recap from a real world experience of a Nature Conservancy spatial analyst, Jim DePasquale who put together a successful team that leveraged 3DEP to acquire lidar data for Alaska’s Prince of Wales island. Here are some of the lessons learned:
Understand the technology. Key partnership members should have a solid understanding of LiDAR technology, which makes it easier to demonstrate the use cases and articulate the value of a project.
◦Become a 3DEP expert. Learn as much as you can about 3DEP, as well as the priorities of the USGS and other federal agencies. For example, our project was looked upon favorably because Alaska was relatively uncharted, and there was a need for detailed elevation mapping.
◦Define the team. The best projects are led by a high-functioning team in which everyone feels they can collaborate and contribute equally. Ensuring individuals and organizations have specifically defined roles also helps keep the project focused and ensures deadlines are met.
◦Specify needs and use cases. A broad project scope is not sufficient. Provide a detailed explanation of the data being collected, its use cases and how these will benefit the community and meet federal agencies’ needs.
◦Identify and work with a technology partner in early stages. By engaging a provider of LiDAR mapping and analytics, you will be able to get a clearer sense of the cost and challenges of the project you’re proposing, which results in a more realistic proposal. Ideally a technology partner should have experience mapping the geographic area you’re targeting and the challenges you may face, as well as an in-depth knowledge of 3DEP that will assist you defining the project and developing the proposal.