National Digital Orthophoto Program Meeting

Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! This week the National Digital Orthophoto Program (NDOP) held their Steering Committee Meeting here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The National Digital Orthophoto Program (NDOP), chartered in 1993, is a consortium of Federal agencies for the purpose of developing and maintaining national orthoimagery coverage in the public domain by establishing partnerships with Federal, State, and local agencies and tribal organizations. Read about this highly successful program in this week's industry news.

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Susan Smith, Managing Editor



Industry News

National Digital Orthophoto Program Meeting
By Susan Smith

This week the National Digital Orthophoto Program (NDOP) held their Steering Committee Meeting here in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the National Park Service Building. Generally, the meeting convenes twice a year in locations where the state or city is working on an orthoimagery project. In this case, New Mexico is working on a statewide orthoimagery project.

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According to an overview presented by George Lee of the USGS and George Rohaley of the National Resources Conservation Service (USDA/NRCS), the National Digital Orthophoto Program (NDOP), chartered in 1993, is a consortium of Federal agencies for the purpose of developing and maintaining national orthoimagery coverage in the public domain by establishing partnerships with Federal, State, and local agencies and tribal organizations. Currently, the NDOP consists of representatives from the following agencies: Farm Service Agency (USDA/FSA), National Resources Conservation Service (USDA/NRCS), Forest Service (USDA/FS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Census Bureau (USCB), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC).

Since its inception, NDOP has been at the forefront of orthoimagery production and technological development. Accomplishments include: orthoimagery standards and specifications, funding initiatives, project planning methods, partnership development, contract administration and increased public access to imagery.

The purpose and mission of the NDOP is to
- Meet various agency program requirements digital orthophotography through partnerships
- Provide a seamless and consistent national image base
- Make the ortho base available to the NSDI framework.
- Serve as a focal point to coordinate aerial and satellite imagery requirements among federal and state organizations.
History

The use of aerial photography goes back to the 1920s. In the '40s, agencies began to use rectified aerial photography, mosaics and base maps. During the 60's to the 80s analog orthos were used. When GIS got going, ortho got going. The need for an accurate digital basemap for digitizing became apparent, and it was determined that orthoimagery is very cost effective as a common base map. DOQs are more up to date than line maps and now there are many GIS applications for orthoimagery.

In 1990 a national digital orthophoto program was originally proposed by USGS, FSA and NRCS. The NDOP was chartered in 1993 by FSA, NSGIC, NRCS, USFS and USGS. The first orthoimagery pilot project was Dane County, Wisconsin. Minnesota became the first state completed under NDOP. The original goal was to finish all private lands by 2002, and all federal lands by 2004. Orthoimage coverage for all private lands over the entire continental United States was first achieved in 2002. Conterminous coverage of all private and federal lands was completed in 2004.

The NDOP believes that by developing partnerships between Federal agencies and state and local governments, they can provide greater orthoimagery coverage and lower the costs by sharing the costs among several partners. Data can be collected once at the highest resolution desired and re-sampled to lower resolutions to meet other orthoimagery requirements. Orthoimagery can be maintained and served from local databases that meet the needs of all levels of government and the public.

For example, within the last two years NDOP has partnered with the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Vermont. In 2003 the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) was implemented. In 2004 the web based NDOP- National Digital Elevation Program (NDEP) project tracking system was developed.

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There are several programs that fall under the auspices of the NDOP. These include NAPP (National Aerial Photography Program administered by USGS) and NAIP (National Agriculture Imagery Program administered by the USDA-Farm Services Agency). NAPP imagery was the primary source of the original DOQs. Today, most Federal imagery is acquired by USDA through NAIP. There are also many other projects that involve the combined efforts of each agency as well as state and local participation. In fact, many state agencies administer their own contracts while partnering with NDOP Federal agencies.

The original DOQ product was a black-and-white DOQ, 1:12,000 scale, one-meter GSD and horizontal accuracy to within 10 meters. Within the last few years though, this specification is on the rise with 1-foot resolution in many urban areas and a natural color one- and two-meter resolution for NAIP. The DOQs today are generated from both aerial film and digital sensor systems. Public domain data is one of NDOP's primary operating principles and hence licensed satellite data or other licensed commercial data has not been the orthoimagery source for the program. DOQs are FGDC metadata compliant. The primary delivery mechanism for DOQs are DVD, fire drive and the internet, because of the large amount of data to be handled. They use primarily MrSID compression. MIT developed the OrthoServer and Microsoft developed the TerraServer primarily to test and develop an IT system capable of delivering large datasets.

Currently, replacement coverage is generally on a 5-year cycle. “In less than ten years, we have complete coverage,” said Rohaley. “That's pretty cost effective.” Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Pacific Basin are not included in the 5-year plan.

Other technological advances that were initiated by the NDOP orthoimagery program include: seamless county mosaics; the need for digital sensors, airborne GPS and inertial measuring units; and faster ways of moving large imagery files via the internet. Also, the imagery generated by NDOP has led to the creation of many value-added companies that develop new products from the orthoimagery.

Orthoimagery trends that NDOP sees are:
- More value added products especially 3D visualization.
- Increased interest in digital sensor collection
- Storage and processing costs going down
- Online access and viewing
- Partnerships are desirable but not always the best solution
- Ortho processing software will be widely used like other desktop office applications.
- Satellite supply will continue to increase especially when .25 meter resolution is available.
- More data sources for imagery, for example, Google Earth, Pictometry, and Microsoft Virtual Earth
- Satellite companies easing licensing restrictions to compete with airborne systems.
NDOP feels that it must continue to meet the challenges of sustaining funding for program stability, constantly educating agency leadership to the value of orthoimagery, adopting key government executives, Congress and the private sector to support the legislation for orthoimagery, continuing to award best value contracts and improve the QA/QC process to speed up data delivery to users.

Among NDOP's future goals:
- Initiate one-foot GSD nationwide on a 5-year repeat cycle.
- Instantaneous orthoimagery products - as soon as an area is flown, the orthoimage is created and delivered.
- High resolution DEMs for the entire country.
- Continue to leverage funds with state agencies, and, at the same time pursue making orthoimagery a national asset funded by Congress.
- Establish private-public partnerships for new orthoimagery


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