The technology that gives organizations a view of the elevation of the Earth — with or without structures and vegetation — is expensive to acquire, but has huge potential for government services.
On the latest episode of GIS Addressed, three state government geospatial experts say their hope for the technology — which is normally acquired through Light Detection and Ranging, or LIDAR, equipment attached to an aerial vehicle — is that it becomes as ubiquitous as GPS is today.
“My hope is that as the technology improves and access improves, it will become more ubiquitous with the general public,” Dennis Pedersen, Tennessee’s GIS director, says on the podcast. “I’ll use the analogy of Google Maps — an online mapping resource. Prior to that, a lot of the folks in the general public had no clue what GIS or geographic information systems was. My hope is LIDAR can become sort of parallel on the general public-use side.”
LIDAR scans can generate massive datasets that sometimes extends into the hundreds of terabytes or petabyte range. This elevation data can be used by GIS professionals to help with emergency response for wildfires or floods, as well as agriculture and urban planning.
“We’re talking terabytes of data and millions and millions of points of the Earth’s surface, but also what’s on the Earth’s surface,” Phil Worrall, executive director of Indiana’s Geographic Information Council says. “We’re not just modeling the ground — we can model and analyze a lot of things. The traditional flood, agricultural, engineering, infrastructure engineering applications are just the tip of this iceberg as to what we can now do with this dataset.”
Nate Roth, the California Department of Conservation’s Geographic Information Officer, says 3D elevation data is rapidly changing, and could soon expand to include more datasets that enable more decision-making for governments.
“I think we’re going to see in the near future elevation data stop being a pure elevation dataset, but [instead we’ll] have simultaneous collections of imagery or multi-spectral information at the same time,” Roth says. “[That] deepens our ability to identify what’s going on at any particular point in the location.”
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GIS Addressed is a podcast from StateScoop and the National States Geographic Information Council about the role of geographic information systems in government.
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