Equator Launches 3DEP High-Resolution USGS Topographic Maps

Equator provides unprecedented access to inches of accuracy, in a user-friendly online design platform.

Last Updated: November 7, 2021

US 3D Topographic Maps in Equator
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Equator has recently launched support for high-resolution USGS topographic maps, provided through the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). The program aims to collect Quality Level 1, 2 and 3 LiDAR data, which ranges from 1 foot to 6 inches in vertical accuracy. This ambitious project to create nationwide LiDAR data will be completed by 2023.

Equator integrates 3DEP LiDAR data directly and converts it into 2D and 3D topographic maps on demand. Historically, high-resolution topographic maps were only accessible to GIS specialists with expensive desktop software. Equator opens up high-resolution US topo maps to everyone who needs them.

By upgrading the accessibility and quality of the data provided online, more people can take part in important discussions on managing, preserving, and protecting the Nation’s natural resources.

The Equator developers have seen an uptick in users accessing high-resolution US topographic maps through their platform in the past few months. 50% of new users come from civil engineering, architecture, and land development sectors, 20% from educational institutions, and the remaining 30% from a collection of associated industries, such as real estate.

Readers can learn more about accessing high-resolution US topo maps in Equator by clicking here to try the platform online now, or by reading more on the Equator website.

Frequently Asked Questions

The U.S Geological Survey (USGS) has responsibility for surveying, mapping, and exploring earth’s natural resources. The U.S Geological Survey collects data on landforms, water supplies, minerals, energy sources, and other important aspects of the nation’s environment. The mission of this government agency is to use these findings to understand how they impact people and society as well as to inform decisions about environmental protection.

The National Geospatial Program is a new US program that will help secure the nation’s position as a leader in geospatial technology. The United States Government has authorized the creation of this program to support and coordinate activities related to geospatial data, which includes topographic maps, imagery, and elevation data. In the past, different agencies have been working on these projects separately from one another but now they are going to work together with the hopes of creating more efficient processes for all involved.

The National Map is an interactive map that provides information about the U.S. federal government’s holdings of land, water, and natural resources in the United States. According to the USGS, The National Map Data Download and Visualization Services provides “Topographic Information for the Nation”.

The U.S Geological Survey is undertaking an ambitious mission to collect nationwide lidar by 2023 through the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). This massive undertaking will allow the US to provide the first-ever nationwide baseline of high-resolution elevation data, and is the foundation for a new 3D delivery format for topographic maps. The project will be completed over a 10-year timeline.

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 and topographic maps has completely transformed.

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. Data provided through the 3DEP project is under one specification – the USGS Lidar Base Specifications.

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.

Engineers, scientists, and city builders use the US topo maps to study the terrain of a region or project site. With the new high-resolution elevation data provided through the 3DEP, there are more use cases than ever before for US topo maps. Better accuracy means that anyone can better insights about their site, before leaving the office.

Equator FAQ

Equator is a web-based, 3D 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 maps in the US. Simply create contours, surface models, cross-sections, mark-ups and figures from USGS topographic data.

Equator is transforming the way you interact with topographic maps 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 maps on the fly, in your browser, at the best available resolution.

  • Access high-resolution US topo maps
  • Find LiDAR data online
  • Generate contours and digital elevation models
  • Cut cross-sections and profiles
  • Extract data for CAD/GIS
  • View 3D surfaces
  • Create deliverables
  • Share high-resolution US topo maps with others online

Rebecca is the Co-Founder and CEO of Equator.