USDA Grants North West Geomatics, EarthData, Horizons Right to Digital Imagery Acquisition Project With Leica ADS40 08.01.2003

North West Geomatics, Ltd. (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), EarthData International (Frederick, Md., USA) and Horizons, Inc. (Rapid City, S.D., USA) will use the Leica ADS40 from Leica Geosystems GIS & Mapping, LLC to conduct a digital imagery acquisition project for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The contract to acquire aerial imagery for the USDA’s National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) marks the USDA’s interest in shifting from the use of traditional film cameras to the use of digital sensors such as the ADS40 to obtain aerial imagery.

To complete this project, North West, EarthData and Horizons will fly over parts of Nebraska between July and August 2003 with three ADS40 systems to obtain aerial imagery from approximately 90,000 square miles or about 7,000 digital ortho quarter quads (DOQQs) of agricultural lands. They will process the imagery and deliver it to the USDA within 30 days of acquisition.

The goal of NAIP is to acquire current and accurate imagery over all agricultural lands of the continental United States annually and deliver it to USDA Service Centers within a few months. The imagery is used for numerous purposes, including crop management and determining farm and tract boundaries. The imagery acquisition process must meet two primary requirements of the USDA: imagery must be provided quickly to Service Centers for mandated annual compliance review; and, when orthorectified, become the updated image base layer for a Geographic Information System (GIS).

“We are pleased that the USDA has chosen our clients and the ADS40 to implement the revolutionary technology of large-format aerial digital image acquisition,” said Mike Smallwood, North America Sales Manager-Airborne Digital Sensors, Leica Geosystems GIS & Mapping. “With the combination of these companies’ quality and professional service and the ADS40’s quick and exact results, the USDA is certain to obtain outstanding aerial imagery for the NAIP.”

The ADS40 is an all-digital aerial sensor that requires no chemical film processing or scanning. Users collect aerial imagery and return from a flight mission ready to process and archive their digital data. Its innovative line scanner principle (capturing imagery looking forwards, backwards and downwards from an aircraft) provides wide area coverage, and, aided by four multispectral lines, simultaneously captures multispectral data. It can deliver both color and FCIR imagery from one flight mission. The sensor’s advanced features and design can provide fast and accurate photogrammetric results that meet the USDA’s requirements.

“The NAIP is one of the largest digital ortho programs undertaken and, combined with an aggressive delivery cycle, is very challenging from a capacity management and production point of view,” said John Welter, Vice President, North West Geomatics. “By using new technology such as the ADS40, we are addressing the delivery timeline and capacity issues by moving to an entirely digital workflow and leveraging the automation in processing that the pushbroom concept allows. The ADS40, combined with the new distributed functionality in the Leica GPro processing package’s HTC (High Throughput Computing) and a computing cluster, allows us to achieve throughput and delivery timelines never before possible with any commercially available mapping technology.”

"We are delighted to be part of the North West team for this hallmark project," said Robert C. Barnard, Director of Business Development, EarthData. "EarthData's acquisition of the ADS40 and the ISTAR advanced image processing system, together with the capabilities of our partners, North West and Horizons, represents exciting opportunities for all of us to better serve clients through more efficient data collection and processing."

“The success of this initial project using a large-format digital camera for the USDA was the overriding concern for all three companies coming into this project,” said Larry Deibert, President, Horizons. “By using the three ADS40 systems from North West and the EarthData and Horizons team, we can maximize the good weather days to accomplish flying the entire state within a 60-day time frame. Horizons is pleased to be a part of the team that shows that the ADS40 system is ready for prime time usage on a project of this magnitude and larger.”

The Nebraska USDA project began July 1.