Emerging Uses for LiDAR
Providing Geologic and Recreational Exploration Guides
The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) is now offering a geologic guide and recreation map series, available as a mobile app for Apple and Android enabled devices.
“Detailed and accurate maps are especially important for outdoor recreation. Maps are your guide, and they need to be accurate and detailed to get you where you’re going,” said Alison Ryan, Earth Science Information Officer at the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. “DOGAMI’s geologic guide and recreation map series – available as paper and mobile maps – takes imagery created using LiDAR data and adds must-have info like distance, elevation and amenities.”
LiDAR technology is similar to radar, but instead of using radio waves, LiDAR uses pulses of light to compile vast collections of precise elevation points. The 3D maps produced by the DOGAMI are more accurate and comprehensive due to the enhanced features of LiDAR.
“LiDAR has revolutionized mapping. LiDAR data are collected from a plane, using an accurate laser scanner that pulses light to build up a three-dimensional ‘point cloud’ model of vegetation, structures and the surface of the earth,” said Ryan. “A computer sorts the points, separating the surface points from the vegetation and structure points. Images derived from the point sets can then be merged with aerial photography and other digital map data to create imagery. The end result is maps that are astonishingly detailed and accurate – and wildly better than maps of the past.”
The DOGAMI has been collecting LiDAR data since 2004, and they currently have data for roughly 30 percent of the state of Oregon.
“We use LiDAR extensively for many types of mapping – from landslide susceptibility maps to tsunami inundation maps to mapping the inundation extent of the historic Missoula Floods,” said Ryan.
The series offers maps for several of Oregon’s volcanic peaks including Mount Hood, Crater Lake, and Three Sisters. These maps include features such as location tracking, distance and elevation measurement, and pin-dropping, which allow users to mark their own points of interest. The maps also provide the locations of wilderness areas, highways, and recreation spots.
“The mobile maps are also downloaded to the mobile device, making multiple maps easy to access,” said Ryan.
The DOGAMI map series can be accessed through the PDF Maps app, created by Avenza Systems, Inc.
Identifying Natural Hazards
In response to the growing need for high-quality topographic data, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has partnered with several Federal agencies to launch the 3D Elevation Program initiative. This $13.1 million project is designed to develop enhanced three-dimensional maps of the United States and its surrounding territories over an eight year period to identify natural hazards caused by the effects of climate change.
Utilizing high-quality LiDAR technology, the initiative will conveniently provide access to maps at higher resolutions that are considerably more accurate than those available today. The 3DEP initiative was created from the results of the National Enhanced Elevation Assessment (NEEA), which documented hundreds of uses for enhanced elevation data in private and nonprofit organizations, as well as local, state and Federal agencies. The NEEA also specified the potential for such data to generate millions of dollars in annual benefits for both private sector and government entities.
The USGS recently partnered with the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS) to host a briefing on Capitol Hill to promote the benefits of using LiDAR in the 3DEP initiative. According to the USGS press release, “Outdated and inconsistent elevation data cost lives and hinder prosperity across our Nation. Flood and landslide maps are just a few of the hundreds of benefits from enhanced LiDAR data”
President Obama recently unveiled a series of projects aimed at preparing communities for the effects of climate change. According to a recent White House fact sheet, the Obama Administration plans to use data from the 3DEP Elevation Program to assist populations in identifying “areas of flood risk management, water resource planning, mitigation of coastal erosion and storm surge impacts, and identification of landslide hazards.”
You can find more information on the benefits of the 3DEP Elevation Program by viewing USGS’s Summary of Program Direction.