Pennsylvania LiDAR Working Group

Working toward acquiring new LiDAR for the state, and planning for future data management and maintenance

An ad-hoc group of state, federal, and local government agencies and nongovernmental organizations has come together as the LiDAR Working Group (LWG) to work toward acquiring a complete QL2 LiDAR coverage for the state, and to plan for data management and maintenance into the future. Pennsylvania is in immediate need of a new LiDAR coverage. USGS has calculated an average return on investment for LiDAR at 5:1. Until recently, data has been collected piecemeal using federal and local funding. Now with state leadership, Pennsylvania’s LiDAR coverage can be focused and counseled to complete the geospatial data program in a cost effective and timely manner.

The LWG supported the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PADCNR) Bureau of Geological Survey in an application to the USGS 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) in November 2018. 3DEP provides a portion of the cost of LiDAR acquisition to successful proposals. For the 2018 proposal, partners on the state side - PADCNR, PA Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), PA Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), PA Department of Transportation (PennDOT), PA Turnpike Commission, and Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) - contributed a total of $2.15 million. The state contribution leveraged an additional $1.27 million in federal funds. The project area, shown on the map below, includes 22 counties covering about 17,000 square miles. Data will be collected and processed throughout 2019.

The LWG supports a proposal to 3DEP for November 2019 that includes 11 western Pennsylvania counties covering about 9,000 square miles. The remaining nine counties in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania are a high priority for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to acquire LiDAR in 2019 or 2020. Together, these two projects will complete a QL2 coverage for Pennsylvania.

The LWG is a proponent of refreshing the LiDAR data on a 3-6 year cycle. Some determining factors are: technological advances leading to improved data accuracy at comparable or reduced cost, coordination with the planned PEMA orthophotography cycle, and rapidity of change on the ground. The LWG has also developed a LiDAR-based technical forum, known as Application Networks, to promote the various uses and benefits of LiDAR data. Please be sure to visit the Application Networks section of this website.