The latest news in surveying and mapping.

SPOT USA Select Product Series Flourishes

SPOT Image Corporation, Reston, Va., has added four more states to the list of those who have purchased the SPOT USA Select product series, which provides statewide digital satellite image maps. Texas, Idaho, Ohio and Rhode Island have recently purchased the series to join California, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maine, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. California was the first state to purchase SPOT USA digital satellite image maps.

SPOT USA Select series features a 10-meter resolution digital statewide image map formatted for GIS and desktop mapping use. Several options are available to use with this product, such as high-resolution insets over select areas, colorization with Landsat 7, multi-spectral coverage, adding elevation models and providing multi-year updates.

SPOT USA provides coverage for 48 states, excluding Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Each state can purchase and customize its own Select mapping series. Prices for SPOT USA range per state from $1,400 to $35,000, depending on state size. Licensing for this product is flexible by state, ranging from shared public viewing (via the Internet) to shared viewing among state and local government agencies.

The maps are used by the states for updating and increasing the accuracy of vectors, to provide current visual backdrops to GIS data, detecting land changes, to help guide and update aerial photography programs and more.

The USA Select series can be upgraded in the future by using the SPOT 5 satellite, which is scheduled for launch in February 2002. SPOT 5 will include large area imagery with resolutions of 2.5m, 5m, 10m and 20m. In addition, SPOT 5 will feature daily global coverage at 1km resolution and worldwide digital terrain models. The satellite will provide greater area detailed coverage for worldwide use. For future updates visit

Getting to the Point—with GPS

Imagine battling 60 mile per hour winds and temperatures as low as 35 degrees below zero, climbing through a 3,000 foot glacial icefall, and lugging heavy equipment and supplies up a mountain in Antarctica. The territory has never before been traveled. And the only documentation of the region comes from satellite images and aerial photographs from 1959. An eight-member expedition team did just this—successfully—this past January.

The PBS science TV series NOVA sponsored the expedition team to pioneer a new route to the summit of the highest peak in Antarctica, Vinson Massif. The daunting journey, up a 16,067 feet elevation, was led by seasoned climber Conrad Anker. Crew member and glaciologist Dan Stone took the first ever high-precision GPS reading of Vinson summit, using Trimble 4800 equipment, which determined the accuracy of the height of the mountain. In addition, Stone also conducted a “snow pit” study to determine how altitude effects snow accumulation rates.

The crew’s ascent, delayed seven days due to weather conditions, started over 25 miles east of the summit at Flowers Hills. The team skied the first part of the journey, which took 10 days. Each team member pulled a sled of equipment containing necessary items such as food, fuel, clothing and camera equipment. After reaching the second part of their journey and climbing 12 hours to the summit, they were picked up by a helicopter. They succeeded in their journey and obtained high-definition aerial photography from a Cessna-185 plane.

The team used GPS for high precision measurement of the mountain, pioneered a new route to the summit and conquered horrendous conditions. An adventurous and beneficial endeavor, the expedition can be seen on a future episode of NOVA.

Topcon Launches New Website

Topcon America Corporation, Paramus, N.J., launched a new website, New features of the website include a company wide E-mail directory, a product literature library for all divisions, tradeshow schedules, and a new library for the medical, surveying and Topcon Omni divisions.

The Streamstats user interface with the USGS 1:24,000-scale topographic map in the background.

Speeding Up Streamflow Estimations

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have just saved surveyors a chunk of time. The estimation of streamflows in areas without gages can now be done in minutes instead of days using a newly developed system called “Streamstats.” The system uses an equation-based method for estimating statistics that measure the expected streamflow range at user-selected sites. Streamflow statistics are used by agencies for environmentally developed river basin management plans, land-use planning, creating flood insurance rate maps and more.

“Automatically the physical characteristics of the watershed that drains to the site will be measured, a set of equations will be solved, and the estimated streamflow statistics and a location map will be provided to your desktop within seconds,” said USGS hydrologist Kernell Ries. According to Ries, users of streamflow statistics previously had to measure the physical characteristics and insert them into the equations by hand, which could be tedious and time-consuming.

USGS hydrologists completed a pilot project using the streamflow method in Massachusetts. They developed a set of 13 equations used to estimate streamflow statistics for most Massachusetts’ streams based on past records of flow. One of the equations was used to estimate the seven day, 10-year flow statistic. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state agencies use this statistic to measure pollutant discharges. Another equation estimated the August median flow, which was used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in New England to ascertain the minimum flow needed to protect aquatic animals and plants. These 13 equations were used to test and finalize the streamflow method.

Streamstats can be accessed on the Internet at Plans for upcoming national streamflow programs can be accessed at

Associate Editor Sharon Oselin compiles “The Latest News.” If you have a timely, newsworthy item, please call her at 248/244-6465. Also visit for weekly news updates.