Five surveying and mapping firms and one technology developer were honored in October with the 2012 MAPPS Geospatial Products and Services Excellence Awards. A panel of independent judges evaluated the entries based on complexity, original or innovative application/development of technologies or techniques, future value to the geospatial profession and the public, and client/owner satisfaction. The winning projects illustrate the professionalism, value, integrity and achievement that are the marks of excellence. Congratulations to the winners!




Photogrammetry/Elevation Data Generation: Creating an On Target Geospatial Foundation for the Navajo Housing Authority

Client: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District

Challenge: Complete an aggressive aerial acquisition schedule and develop orthoimagery and DEM coverage for 30,000 square miles of desert landscape over four states with extremely rugged terrain, unforgiving shading and harsh tone balancing. Also conduct a geodetic survey to develop a custom map projection for the Navajo Housing Authority (NHA).

Subconsultants/Subcontractors: Towill, Inc. developed the ground survey and the custom Navajo Housing Authority projection system. Aerial image acquisition was divided between Surdex Corp. and Aerial Surveys International LLC.

Innovation: For aerial image acquisition, AeroMetric chose Z/I DMC four-band digital aerial cameras equipped with gyro-stabilized mounts and integrated GPS/IMUs. Instead of manual breakline collection, the AeroMetric team automatically generated a 2-meter post-spacing DEM, 16 times more dense than required by the final deliverables. This higher-resolution DEM captured the vast majority of the terrain changes and increased the confidence in the final DEM results. AeroMetric then used a custom approach to thin the DEM to the 8-meter post-spacing required by the client without losing the more detailed breakline information. Next, AeroMetric employed stereo-editing software to refine the DEM’s further by interactive visual inspection and manual addition of the required breaklines. AeroMetric then identified and fixed any artifacts created between DEM tiles and utilized GIS tools to review the assembled DEM’s across the entire project area. This innovative procedure permitted photogrammetrists to catch and smooth stepping and gaps between tiles, and allowed for a superior final project deliverable that could be used as another base layer of the NHA geospatial infrastructure. To ensure that the ortho-rectification process accurately modeled the rugged terrain, AeroMetric did an initial color balancing of the unrectified aerial imagery, grouping it by strip and date so that the images processed had similar time and atmospheric conditions. This prebalancing facilitated all subsequent steps as AeroMetric staff established seamlines, which minimized terrain distortions, obscured areas and other artifacts created by the challenging desert landscape. The resulting map projection, detailed digital elevation data and four-band orthoimagery provide a comprehensive digital land base for the NHAs new land information system.


Photo Science

Airborne and Satellite Data Acquisition: LiDAR for the North East

Photo Science,

Client: USGS

Challenge: Acquire and post-process LiDAR across an 8,000 square mile area along the New England coastline as a forerunner demonstration of the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) vision, despite unprecedented weather conditions, extreme snow volumes, prolonged snow melt, persistent cloud conditions, a diversity of both geography and topography, low-tide collection requirements, controlled airspace, and varied LiDAR specifications within this area.

Innovation: A proprietary tide planning tool developed by Photo Science allowed flight planners to compare tide, sun angle and weather by date. Staff analyzed and charted flight windows based on both predicted and actual tide heights and “calibrated” local tide gauges based on factors such as barometric pressure and wind speed/direction. The application significantly compressed tidal pre-flight planning from two hours to five minutes and delivered a more accurate flight window assessment for this project. Additionally, through stakeholder collaboration and USGS guidance, Photo Science developed a new “bare water” classification. A modified LiDAR post-processing workflow enabled the retention of actual water elevation surface levels while eliminating noise and outliers. As a result, the classification also enhanced the interpretability of islands smaller than 1 acre, supported the depiction of wave action and yielded greater near-shore shallow water definition.


Merrick & Company

Remote Sensing: Enhancing Airfield Safety with LiDAR Technology

Merrick & Company,

Client: Dobbins Air Reserve Base

Challenge: Collect and analyze geospatial and elevation data that precisely identifies all vertical obstructions on the airbase by performing change detection, photo interpretation and thematic mapping.

Innovation: This was the first use of LiDAR technology as the basis for Merrick’s analysis for airfield obstruction identification within the Air Force Reserve Command. Merrick’s solution included a configuration of airborne GPS, an inertial measurement unit, a 60-megapixel digital camera and a 200-Khz LiDAR system (the Optech Orion C200) that was integrated into a single pod mounted on an AStar 300 helicopter. The Optech Orion C200 is capable of emitting over 200,000 light pulses per second, which allows for a very dense sampling of points that define elevations, buildings, towers, signs, etc. The ability for the pulses of light to penetrate an opening in the tree canopy allowed Merrick to compute the height of tree obstructions on the end of the runway. The collection of high-fidelity LiDAR combined with digital camera images provided point spacing elevations at a density of 8 points per square meter and color imagery with a 3-inch pixel resolution. The accuracies achieved with this system and the results obtained using remote sensing and thematic mapping techniques to identify dangerous obstructions far exceeded any of the old methods for completing this type of survey. Using LiDAR also saved mobilization costs and data collection time over the restricted airspace.


Surveying/Field Data Collection: Barrenlands, Bombs and Boundary Surveys

Merrick & Company,

Client: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District

Challenge: Complete a detailed boundary survey of the 1.05-million-acre Barry M. Goldwater Range, one of the largest boundary surveys completed in the United States for the federal government

Innovation: Long baseline GPS techniques allowed crews to contend with the harsh, expansive and environmentally sensitive landscape. Merrick developed a comprehensive project plan that met strict military access and safety regulations, and also implemented effective communication procedures that provided safe and uninterrupted access to restricted range areas. As a deliverable, the BLM was provided precise coordinates for hundreds of surveyed monuments installed for this project so that the national Geographical Coordinate Database (GCDB) could be updated to reflect accurate monument locations. Accurately locating the boundary will virtually eliminate land disputes as development and base expansion occurs in the future.



GIS/IT: City of Storm Lake GIS/GPS Project


Client: City of Storm Lake, Iowa

Challenge: Create a GIS as a resource to enable efficient and effective responses to geospatial information requests from the various city departments.

Subconsultants/Subcontractors: Kuehl & Payer provided the GPS field collection of all new features as well as the necessary attribute data.

Innovation: Trimble Access software was paired with a Trimble R8 GNSS Rover to accurately collect a horizontal position for the center sanitary manholes as well as orthometric heights. Esri ArcPad 10 was used to provide robust GIS field data collection. Once all field data collection and compilation was complete, Sidwell provided comprehensive training to city staff on how to successfully view, analyze, and maintain the city GIS. Sidwell then consolidated and symbolized the various data elements into an informative and easy-to-use web portal built on its Portico technology. The project has enabled the city and its staff to become more efficient and provide a more timely response to maintenance and emergency issues.


Kappa Mapping

Remote Sensing: Mapping Fishing Gear and Lines to Reduce Whale Entanglements

Kappa Mapping,

Client: Maine Department of Marine Resources

Challenge: Capture aerial imagery on schedule despite consistently adverse weather and rough sea conditions. Measure and analyze 8,000 images of buoys floating in the ocean to produce the first independent appraisal of lobster buoys and the vertical lines that connect buoys to ocean-floor traps in Maine waters

Subconsultants/Subcontractors: Keystone Aerial Surveys collected the aerial imagery using a Microsoft UltraCAM Xp digital camera, which offers direct georeferencing and collects four-band (true color and color infrared) imagery with increased bit depth.

Innovation: Kappa used stereo photography and photointerpretation to determine the density/location of buoys and lines up to 23 miles out to sea along Maine’s coast so DMR scientists could anticipate potential points of convergence between vertical lines and whale migration paths, accurately detect and report entanglements, and help formulate fishery regulations to reduce entanglements, particularly of the critically endangered right whale. Through the innovative use of existing stereo imagery, Kappa was able to accurately pinpoint and map more than 65,000 buoys along Maine’s coast. Direct georeferencing of four-band digital imagery helped manage data.



Technology Innovation: Scanning the Seas--RIEGL VQ-820-G


Challenge: Develop a new approach for hydrographic, airborne and marine surveying that provides higher quality and faster data production by digitizing the echo signals received by the LiDAR instrument for every laser pulse and analyzing these echo signals in order to retrieve almost all of the information contained in the echo signal using transparent algorithms adaptable to specific applications.

Innovation: The new RIEGL VQ-820-G bathymetric LiDAR system incorporates “tightly coupled” echo waveform data, which provides a distinct separation of target returns and the merging of target returns without range errors in addition to the detection of laser pulse shape deviation. Together, these combine to provide high accuracy, high precision, calibrated amplitude data, calibrated reflectance data that “cleans up” point clouds and improves classification. All laser systems provide 3D XYZ information and a traditional noncalibrated intensity value. With the RIEGL VQ-820-G system, echo pulse shape (i.e., the orientation of target surface), detection of textured surfaces and precise time stamp of all returns are finally achieved. Equally important to system deployment is a less than 75-pound overall integrated system weight, 200,000 measurements per second and a typical operating altitude of 1,800 feet. Tests in non-optimal water conditions showed that the RIEGL VQ-820-G had consistent, excellent results where it was possible to see the water’s surface, the sea floor and returns from vegetation and buildings due to the scanner’s multiple target capability with water penetration of 5-10 meters underneath “normal” sea state conditions and point density of 10-15 points per square meter.


For more information about MAPPS, visit