Partnership opens mapping data to public

Digital maps are an important tool for the regional planning work of Pima Association of Governments and other regional agencies. These images provide high-quality data that informs many important planning functions.

PAG recently began a partnership that will allow public access to an expansive library of aerial topographic images of southern Arizona.

A 3D lidar image of the University of Arizona football stadium. Lidar data is collected as a “point cloud” of individual points reflected from everything on the surface, including structures and vegetation. 

Through a partnership with OpenTopgraphy, based at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego, PAG can now easily provide open access to the most recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) high-quality (3DEP) lidar imagery over Pima County with just the use of a computer and web browser.

The collaboration allows lidar imagery users, such as urban planners, academics, consultants, and others, to gain access to, download, or use of the data online without the need for additional software, data storage space, or processing tools.

To receive PAG’s regionally coordinated remote sensing datasets, partner agencies needed to have large digital data shared though hard drives, which required additional software and effort to order from PAG, access and use.

Lidar imagery is collected through aircraft and satellites but unlike other imagery and digital maps that many people have become accustomed to using, lidar instruments collect a much greater level of data. The high-resolution imagery collected provides three-dimensional topographic, ground-level representations, accounting for elevations and physical features such as buildings and vegetation.

The high-resolution imagery is an important dataset used to derive additional products such as terrain mapping and flood modeling.  

OpenTopography hosts and provides open online access to many high-resolution lidar topography datasets as well as global and regional datasets such as NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) and USGS’s 1 and 1/3rd arc-second Digital Elevation Models (DEMs). OpenTopography also centralizes access to networks of data and applies value-added processing to NOAA Coastal and USGS 3DEP lidar datasets.

Lidar topographic images and data are also used in urban planning, forestry management, environmental monitoring, disaster response, infrastructure development and autonomous vehicle development, among other uses.

OpenTopography was founded in 2009, and is managed by the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California San Diego; UNAVCO, a non-profit, university-governed consortium facilitating geoscience research and education in Boulder, Colo.; and Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE).