The highest-resolution USGS topographic maps.

Equator provides online access to inches of accuracy in minutes – no surveyor required.

The New USGS Topographic Map – 3DEP

The USGS is undertaking an ambitious mission to collect nation-wide lidar by 2023 through the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). This is your chance to see this amazing new data. This massive undertaking will allow the US to provide the first-ever nationwide baseline of high-resolution elevation data. The project will be completed over a 10 year timeline.

The USGS already has extensive topographic mapping, why does this matter?

The 3DEP project is a BIG deal, mainly because of the quality of the data that is provided. High-resolution means 2 ft, 1 ft, or even 0.5 ft in vertical accuracy. Forget about 20 ft contours, with high-resolution lidar data, you can make out bridges, ditches, and even curbs. The way that engineers source elevation data has been completely transformed.

Where does the topographic data come from?

The 3DEP project includes lidar datasets from across the nation, including those collected by FEMA, USGS and other agencies. This dataset is a compilation of lidar data from multiple acquisition projects carried out between 2014 to present. A full list of US 3DEP elevation data sets is included in the table at the bottom of this page. Data provided through the 3DEP project is under one specification – the USGS Lidar Base Specifications.

How accurate is the USGS topographic map (3DEP)?

Check out the accuracy for lidar in your area at the bottom of this article. There are four (4) different quality levels associated with the USGS 3DEP lidar data. Quality levels range from Q0 (best quality) to Q4 (lowest quality). In terms of vertical accuracy, here is what you can expect (95% confidence level):

  • Q0: ≤ 9.8 cm NVA and ≤ 15.0 cm VVA
  • Q1: ≤ 19.6 cm NVA and ≤ 30.0 cm VVA
  • Q2: ≤ 19.6 cm NVA and ≤ 30.0 cm VVA
  • Q3: ≤ 20.0 cm NVA and ≤ 60.0 cm VVA

Where NVA is Non-vegetated Vertical Accuracy and VVA is Vegetated Vertical Accuracy. The collected accuracy varies based on ground conditions such as tree cover. In general, in NVA conditions, such as an open field or on a roadway you can expect better vertical accuracy that in VVA conditions.

Bridge cross section from 3D topography in Equator mapping software

What is Equator?

Equator is a web-based, 3D mapping platform created by civil engineers to make it easier to access the best topographic maps online. Equator is the quickest way to access, visualize, and download high-resolution topographic data in the US. Simply create contours, surface models, cross-sections, mark-ups and figures from USGS 3DEP data.

Who is Equator for?

Equator shares high-resolution topographic data to a variety of end users. Typical users include:

  • Civil Engineers
  • Planners
  • Construction Professionals
  • Landscape Designers
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Artists and Makers

Why View USGS LiDAR in Equator?

Equator is transforming the way you interact with topography online. Gone are the days of downloading digital elevation models (DEMs) or similar to local machines. Equator leverages the latest 3D technology, borrowed from the 3D gaming world, to stream topographic data on the fly, in your browser, at the best available resolution.

Equator believes in democratizing access to high-resolution elevation data around the world. Equator’s mission is to make it easy for anyone, no matter the experience level or budget, to find, build and share high-resolution maps online.

What can I do in Equator?

Using Equator, you can source, view, extract or share USGS topographic data. In addition, Equator is a workflow platform which means that you can organize all of your sites in dedicated project folders and share those projects with your team instantly. Key benefits for professional users include:

  • Bottom line revenue growth – increased efficiency and cost savings.
  • Top line revenue growth – uncover competitive insights.

View 3D Surfaces

See the USGS topographic data in gorgeous 3D full color. Turn lidar point clouds of roads, bridges, fields and cities into 3D models with a few simple clicks. Add your own data to overlay multiple data layers and customize.

View Contours

Create contours at the click of a button, directly in your browser. Customize the resolution, color and and label style to meet your needs. Export contour data for use in other CAD or GIS software.

Toronto shoreline topography contours

Cut Cross Sections

Cut cross sections from the USGS lidar point cloud or 3D surface on the fly. Create fully-customizable figures using the cross sections, or export them directly to csv or shapefile.

View LiDAR Point Clouds

High resolution USGS LiDAR point clouds are available in Equator, right on the 3D globe. Choose a location, select the data set of interest and your site area and voila – billions of 3D points at your fingertips.

Screenshot of Civil3D showing a park in Toronto

Extract Data

Do you need to move your work into another CAD or GIS platform? No problem! Simply specify the area and data sets you want to export, and you are good to go.

One Click Sharing

Do you work on a team? Share your high-resolution map with them so they can get up to speed and add to the conversation. Equator empowers all team members to show, rather than just tell right on the 3D earth surface.

Remote collaboration in Equator, designing collaboratively

Create Figures Fast

Do you need to submit a report or proposal? Turn USGS lidar data into figures fast, leveraging our built in title blocks, or your own! Add labels, images, text, cross sections and then download a PDF.

Why should I use Equator to access the USGS topographic map?

The old way of viewing topography online is low-resolution and time-consuming. Now you can stream USGS topographic data on the fly, in your browser, at the best available resolution.

  • Revolutionary 3D platform for viewing data

  • Most detailed 3D map online of the US, in one place

  • Easily extract the data you need

What USGS LiDAR data is provided in Equator and what is the quality level?

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Rebecca is the Co-Founder and CEO of Equator.