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USGS Hosts Airborne-Lidar Technology and Applications Workshop in Louisiana

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airborne lidar technology
Above: Airborne lidar technology as used by the Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar (EAARL) system (URL, includes a water-penetrating, green-wavelength lidar; dual-phase kinematic GPS receivers on the aircraft and the ground, with differential correction for better positioning accuracy; an inertial measurement unit (IMU) for determining aircraft attitude (pitch, roll, and heading); and a digital camera that acquires a high-resolution color-infrared photograph every second. [larger version]

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hosted a workshop on airborne lidar (light detection and ranging) on June 20-21, 2007, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The workshop was held in the state-of-the-art auditorium at the Louisiana Transportation Research Center on the Louisiana State University campus. The primary objective was to educate attendees on airborne-lidar technology and its potential applications in the northern Gulf of Mexico region. The workshop also provided an opportunity to discuss possible collaborations in the acquisition and application of lidar data, with a focus on investigations of the geomorphologic structure, ecologic function, and hazard vulnerability of the northern gulf coast. The workshop was attended by 60 participants from several Federal, State, local, and private agencies, including representatives from the USGS, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LA-DNR), the Louisiana Coastal Restoration Division (part of LA-DNR), the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the University of New Orleans, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Amar Nayegandhi, an ETI contractor at the USGS Florida Integrated Science Center (FISC), organized the workshop. The steering committee included John Brock, FISC; Charles Demas, USGS Louisiana Water Science Center; Dawn Lavoie, USGS Gulf of Mexico Science Coordinator; Pat O'Neil, USGS Geospatial Liaison for Louisiana; and Emily Klipp, ETI contractor at FISC.

The first day of the workshop focused on plenary presentations by experienced lidar users from various Federal agencies. After brief introductions from Demas and O'Neil, Nayegandhi gave an overview of airborne-lidar technology, focusing on the capabilities and limitations of existing lidar technology. Nayegandhi also highlighted the importance of Global Positioning System (GPS) and accurate aircraft-attitude (pitch, roll, and heading) measurements for accuracy. Brock gave an overview of airborne-lidar applications, with emphasis on cross-environment lidar surveying (simultaneous mapping of land and submerged topography) and coral-reef applications. Darrin Lee (LA-DNR), Dean Gesch (USGS), Hilary Stockdon (USGS), and Chris Parrish (NOAA) each described their use of lidar in coastal research; applications of lidar technology in coastal restoration, storm-surge modeling, coastal change, and shoreline delineation were presented to a captivated audience. Eddie Wiggins (USACE) and C. Wayne Wright (NASA) described state-of-the-art lidar sensors (CHARTS [URL] and EAARL [URL], respectively) capable of mapping subaerial and submarine topography using a water-penetrating, green-wavelength lidar. Robert Kayen (USGS) introduced the audience to a ground-based lidar system capable of providing resolution and accuracy an order of magnitude better than airborne lidar systems, the obvious limitation being smaller spatial coverage. Jason Stoker (SAIC contractor at USGS) concluded the presentations by offering insights on data sharing and management and by summarizing a report of the first National Lidar Initiative meeting, hosted by the USGS in Reston, Virginia, in February 2007 (URL [143 KB PDF]).

The second day began with Lavoie heading a brief discussion on the exploration of potential partnerships for integrated-science studies in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The discussion was followed by breakout sessions that addressed three topics:
(1) hydrologic applications, (2) wetlands-ecology and upland-vegetation applications, and (3) coastal hazards and storm impacts. Each group was asked to begin its discussion session by answering four questions:

  • What are the specific data needs?
  • What is the current status of lidar-data acquisition and processing?
  • Is the accuracy of currently available data sufficient?
  • What are your specific areas of interest and locations for potential lidar-data acquisition?

After nearly 2 hours of discussion, the groups reconvened and shared their results. Demas, representative for the group discussing hydrologic applications, noted a need for (1) better than the 2-ft (60 cm) accuracy of topographic data available for most major basins in Louisiana, (2) an organized group of lidar experts to determine appropriate topographic-product specifications for different habitats and the best time to conduct a lidar survey, and (3) standardizing methods and finding the best accuracy with given resources. Dan Kroes (USGS), representative for the group discussing wetlands-ecology and upland-vegetation applications, noted a need for (1) surveying appropriately according to the type of habitat, for example, more frequent surveys for a habitat that changes often, such as wetlands, and less frequent surveys for those that change less often, such as upland forests; and (2) better integration of hyperspectral data (a measure of reflected sunlight over an extremely wide portion of the light spectrum) with existing lidar data (which uses an active light source to determine the range to the target). Gesch, representative for the group discussing coastal hazards and storm impacts, noted a need for (1) more frequent surveys of barrier islands and continued monitoring of storm-affected habitats; and (2) better quality of data at the land/water interface, possibly attained by using a green-wavelength lidar with a short laser pulse (such as EAARL).

The general consensus of all the groups was the great potential of using ground-based lidar to help interpret and, possibly, improve the accuracy of airborne-lidar topographic data. It was hoped that the many contacts made by participants would lead to cooperation on a myriad of projects with a better understanding of lidar technology.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Lidar Mapping of Vegetation at Assateague Island National Seashore—a First Look
Dec. 2002 / Jan. 2003
NASA EAARL Lidar Test at Wallops Flight Facility
April 2001

Related Web Sites
Report of the First National Lidar Initiative February 14-16, 2007, Reston, Va.
143 KB PDF
Integrated Remote Sensing and Modeling Group
USGS (U.S. Geological Survey)
Joint Airborne Lidar Bathymetry Technical Center of Expertise (JALBTCX)
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
EAARL: Experimental Advanced Airborne Research LiDAR

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Tar Seeps in the Santa Barbara Channel

California Sea Otter Count Reaches New High

Outreach Upcoming! "A Tale of Two Kelp Forests" Public Lecture

MIT Students Tour USGS Woods Hole Science Center

Coastal-Hazards Research Featured in First USGS Podcast

Meetings Scientists Meet Managers at Coastal Zone 2007

Airborne-Lidar Technology and Applications Workshop

Awards USGS Hydrologist Honored for Outstanding Community Outreach

Staff Upcoming! New Vice President of Pacific Section SEPM Helps Plan Fall Field Trips


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