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 to work toward acquiring a complete QL2 LiDAR coverage for the state, and 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. If we can act in the 2018 budget year, we have the opportunity to apply to the USGS 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) program which will provide a portion of the project cost. 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.

A current estimate for the cost of obtaining QL2 LiDAR for the remaining 42 counties is about $6.7 million (29,535 sq. mi. x $226/sq. mi.). On average, the 3DEP initiative may cover about one-third of the cost of successful proposals, bringing the cost to the state and other partners closer to $4.3 million. The work would likely be completed as a 2-year or 3-year project, thus reducing the cost per year to partner agencies. The aim is to line up partners within and outside state government, and submit a proposal to 3DEP in October 2018.

The 3DEP initiative began in 2012 and is accelerating the rate of 3D elevation data collection. The call for action to collect high-quality LiDAR data requires broad support from a large partnership community. The initiative is being led by the USGS and includes many partners—Federal agencies and State, Tribal, and local governments—who will work together to complete the national data coverage in the near future. Private sector firms, under contract to the Government, will continue to collect the data and provide essential technology solutions for the Government to manage and deliver these data and services.

The partners would look at refreshing the elevation 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 PEMA orthophotography cycle, and rapidity of change on the ground.