Teaming arrangements between county, state and federal partners have become commonplace as a funding mechanism for orthoimagery and LiDAR projects throughout the U.S. Municipalities, councils of governments (COG) and private companies are also taking part by contributing money for buy-ups to get higher resolution and better accuracy over specific areas of interest.

By joining forces, participants can expect significant reductions in acquisition costs, as compared to contracting alone for smaller areas; however, the consolidation of aerial

acquisition activities into state-wide contracts has impacted smaller regional mapping firms that traditionally have flown county and municipal projects.

For example, the Maine Geolibrary Board is in its third year of a five-year statewide orthoimagery program costing $2.4 million. Claire Kiedrowski, president of KAPPA Mapping of Bangor, Maine, is providing value-added processing, as well as community outreach services to encourage participation in the program. “In the past, KAPPA Mapping has handled mapping projects for counties and municipalities from start to finish, including helping the client select the correct specifications, contracting out for the aerial imagery, and overseeing QA/QC and map production,” said Kiedrowski. “With this multi-year statewide contract being primed by a large national firm, our role has changed. Now we are focusing our efforts on how to extract the greatest value from the new public database by offering custom services to public and private clients who may not have the time or the tools to work with this sophisticated data and derive the necessary mapping products.”

For the participants in Maine, average cost per square mile was reduced from several hundred dollars to less than $53 to acquire 2-foot resolution, 4-band imagery, with buy-up options for 3-inch, 6-inch and 1-foot resolution, increased resolution LiDAR, and bathymetric LiDAR. The new high-resolution data in Maine can be used to produce numerous derivative products for a variety of applications, such as: 

  • Identify impervious surfaces while mapping for zoning compliance
  • Conduct public asset inventory for GASB34 (Governmental Accounting Standards Board Statement 34)
  • Determine street sign locations for MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) studies and compliance
  • Create feature and contour maps for planning and engineering
  • Use planimetric and topographic mapping for a CSO (Combined Sewer Overflow) abatement
  • Incorporate 1’ contour mapping into watershed restoration plans
KAPPA Mapping can extract bare earth as well as trees, buildings and cell towers from LiDAR data.

In nearby Massachusetts, the MassOrtho program includes 60 communities that have contracted for 3-inch imagery deliverables, including orthos and components of stereo pairs necessary for custom photogrammetry/planimetric mapping. KAPPA became pre-qualified in spring 2014 to perform State of Massachusetts planimetry updates.

“We already have the trained personnel, hardware and software to address many municipalities’ mapping needs,” Kiedrowski explained. “We have certified photogrammetrists and geospatial analysts on staff, all with hands-on experience handling complex problems. With access to raw images and aerotriangulation, KAPPA can produce or update any map in stereo, including GIS and engineering maps. As mapping experts, we also ensure the correct coordinate system and vertical datum is being used, and we get local control to ensure meeting clients’ specs.”

The LiDAR for the Northeast program is another example of a successful teaming effort. Six states — New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut — applied to USGS to receive funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 to collect 8,000 square miles of LiDAR along the coastline in 2010–2011. Existing digital elevation models, decades old with 30-meter spacing, often resampled to 10-meter spacing, were inadequate to meet the demands of coastline modeling.

“This project produced a great dataset for KAPPA to use to produce value-added products and services,” said Kiedrowski. “We now have access to updated 2-meter digital elevation

KAPPA Mapping provides planimetric updates including parcel lines and building outlines.

models for the coastline. We can help identify coastal erosion, determine flood risk, conduct ecosystem studies, and analyze the impact of sea level rise by applying our specialized LiDAR experience.”

The trend of teaming is rapidly gaining momentum. Vermont, Indiana, Virginia, and Ohio already have consortiums. Although there are numerous roadblocks to consortiums being successful, such as agreement on specs, agreement on matching funds, meeting funding commitment deadlines and working around differing budget cycles, the cost savings makes it an attractive alternative. Eventually every state will acquire state-wide coverage in this manner, so the potential for providing custom mapping services is growing.

“As a small business, we have to be able to reinvent ourselves when conditions around us change, so we are focusing on maximizing the value of these new datasets and producing value-added products such as breaklines, contours, and 3D shaded relief, which not everyone can do,” said Kiedrowski. “We are also committed to working with users to expand ways to use the data, for example in emergency response, wildlife management and economic development. Their return on investment increases with every new application.”