USGS Great Smoky Mountains LiDAR and Orthophotos

Acquisition of LiDAR for the Tennessee Portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Foothills Parkway

The acquisition of approximately 1400 sq. km (540 sq miles) of LiDAR data for the Tennessee portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM) and adjacent Foothills Parkway was completed by The Center for Remote Sensing and Mapping Science (CRMS), Department of Geography, University of Georgia (UGA) and Photo Science, Inc (PSI). Under the terms of Contract #G10AC0015, this LiDAR acquisition was funded by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The LiDAR data acquired, processed and compiled in this project adheres to the specifications of the USGS Grant Program Announcement No.10HQPA0014 for Proposal # NM-ARRA-0073.

The aim of this project was to collect and process high resolution LiDAR elevation data to complete the coverage of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM). Previous to this project, high resolution LiDAR elevation data were only available for the North Carolina portion of the Park (971 sq km). Those data were acquired as part of the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Project. The newly-acquired LiDAR data set includes leaf-off LiDAR data of the Tennessee portion of the GRSM and adjacent Foothills Parkway, acquired in the February-April, 2011 timeframe. This is a high priority area for national/global interests because: 1) it is one of the most biodiverse areas of the world; 2) it contains some of the most rare and endangered species in the world; 3) the parks protect some of the last remaining virgin forest in the U.S.; 4) the area is threatened by invasive exotic plants and animals, air pollution, overuse by park visitors and surrounding development; and 5) it is at high risk for flooding, fire and earthquake hazards.

Deliverables include 1) Classified LAS Point Cloud Data in LAS 1.2 format, organized as 1500x1500m tiles; 2) DEM bare earth grids in ERDAS Imagine (IMG) format, organized as 1500x1500m tiles; 3) Raw Unclassified LiDAR Point Clouds in LAS 1.2 format, organized by flight line; and 4) metadata. In all, there are 724 tiles covering 1399 sq. km (540 sq. miles) with 3.8 billion total points. Overall vertical accuracy was assessed to + 16.5 cm for LiDAR points with an average point spacing of 0.62 m. LiDAR classes include 1 (unclassified), 2 (ground), 7 (noise) and 12 (overlap). All data sets were referenced to the UTM NAD83, Zone 17 North coordinate system and the NAVD88 Vertical Datum.

The Sinks: LiDARIn a unique public/private partnership, Photo Science, Inc. (Norcross, GA and Lexington, KY) was contracted to acquire, process and classify the LiDAR data. Ground control and accuracy assessments points were surveyed by a ground crew supervised by a professional surveyor from Photo Science with support from UGA faculty and students. Data quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC), data inventory and metadata creation was conducted by a team of researchers, students, interns and employees at UGA. Overall supervision of the project was conducted by UGA faculty. In this way, the U.S. workforce was strengthened via new jobs, continuity of existing jobs and the training of undergraduate and graduate students at two institutions for high skilled geospatial jobs.

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