3D Elevation Program (3DEP)
LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a technology that uses lasers to pulse light toward surfaces, and then take measurements based on the reflected light. These measurements include information on everything from object density, to size, to velocity of moving objects. For our purposes, LiDAR is how we measure, quantify, and qualify information about the surface of the earth and all the things on it.
LiDAR laser arrays are, like all other technologies, rapidly changing. In the last decade, LiDAR has moved from a technology most often deployed from satellites and planes to a technology lightweight and accurate enough to deploy from ATVs and vans. This upgrade in usability, along with a continual improvement in the quality of LiDAR captured data, makes this the perfect technology for the deployment of the USGS for the national 3D Elevation Program.
The data captured from the 3DEP LiDAR surveys for the USGS has been used for myriad purposes. The improved accuracy from the technical requirement of the 3D Elevation Program has allowed access and use of data for everything from railroad grading to accurate volumetrics for catfish pond construction. This data has also been used for forestry studies, both commercial and non-commercial, levee monitoring, and flood plain mapping. Additionally, the data captured with LiDAR for the 3DEP program has been and will be used for slope integrity management, to prevent or predict landslides, and management of soil loss and retention, key in maintaining the health of agricultural production. LiDAR from the 3DEP program can also be used to more accurately site roads, bridges, and buildings, which is important for economic development and urban planning.