Benefits of a Single Homogeneous Elevation Dataset

Jun. 14, 2016

As a geospatial department within a city, county, or state, you receive requests for digital elevation data for part of your territory. You purchase available elevation data or commission the area to be flown with LiDAR when available data does not meet your requirements.


The next project comes along and you do the same, but this time, maybe the requested area is slightly different. You once again purchase available data or commission the new area to be flown. As years go by, you are left to manage a large patchwork of elevation data all with different requirements and all with different ages of the data. Without an overall strategy for your territory, it’s like the tail wagging the dog.

Does this sound familiar? This is often how elevation projects were performed in the past for most geospatial departments within city, county and state governments. Rarely were geospatial agencies given resources to think strategically, to cover their whole territory when individual projects only required data from a portion of their area. Rarely were geospatial departments given the prominence within city, county, and state governments they deserve.Because of that, here are some of the problems this approach has created:

  • Gaps without Data: Because elevation data was obtained on a project by project basis, you are left with a patchwork of elevation data across your territory. There are often gaps without elevation data. So what happens when a request comes through for an area where you have multiple datasets or that contains pockets of no data?
  • Inaccuracies & Conflicting Data: When you have different elevation datasets with different accuracies, obtained at different times you get inaccuracies & conflicting data. How do you rectify this problem?
  • Wasted Time: When you have multiple elevation datasets that you have to search through to find the requested area and accuracy, you waste time. How do you justify this problem? Do you just accept it as part of doing business?
  • Wasted Resources: When you have to constantly go back and obtain small areas of data where you have gaps, or field questions when someone has conflicting data, you are wasting resources that could be better spent elsewhere. Do you sometimes feel frustrated or overwhelmed when this occurs? 

Maybe it’s time to grab hold of the dog’s tail and take control – to think more strategically. Imagine how much more productive you would be if you had a complete homogeneous elevation dataset for your entire territory. Think how much more your agency would accomplish and how much quicker projects will get done. So, how do you make this happen? Here are a few of the ways:

  • Purchase all new elevation data: You could accomplish this by reviewing the required accuracies of your agency and purchase all new data from a single source for your entire territory. This is the more expensive way, but would definitely get the job done. 
  • Have your current data fused into one dataset: An alternative is to have the LiDAR, Satellite and IFSAR data you currently have fused into one dataset. This is a more economical solution. Companies that can do that service for you can probably fill in gaps as well so you have one complete homogeneous dataset. This is typically more economical than purchasing a new complete dataset.

So why not think more strategically for your department. Show your agency’s leadership how much time, energy and resources are wasted with the current strategy and put together a plan for how a single homogeneous dataset will benefit your agency.

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