The 3D Elevation Program (3DEP): The Map Half Full
When 3DEP was initially envisioned in the 2014 USGS Call for Action publication, a nationwide lidar program seemed an impossible dream due to the estimated cost at $1B and the unprecedented data management challenge that would result. However, rapidly growing data demand, industry efficiency and cost improvements, and documented annual program benefits estimated to potentially reach $13B, convinced the USGS to undertake the audacious goal of nationwide data coverage in 8 years. The first full year of 3DEP production began in 2016 with the target to complete data acquisition in 2023. Partnerships and funding have been growing every year, and FY18 was a banner year for data acquisition. Today, over 50 percent of the Nation has elevation data that meet 3DEP specifications for high accuracy and resolution that are available or in progress. This milestone is truly a community achievement, including the partners that fund acquisition, the vibrant lidar industry and private sector mapping firms that collect the data, and a growing and innovative user base. As we celebrate this success, we must also continue to look forward to the challenges of completing nationwide coverage and meeting growing needs for higher quality data, repeat coverage, and new products and services.