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Private Sector Capacity for 3DEP

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, January 15, 2013
The USGS has launched a program to provide a national elevation dataset to a common standard with scheduled updates. The 3DEP program ( is based on a recommended 8-year acquisition cycle at a cost of $146 million per year. In response to a request from USGS, MAPPS, the association of private sector geospatial firms, conducted an analysis of existing and future private sector LIDAR data acquisition capacity and capability.


In a response to USGS, MAPPS has confirmed that a capable, qualified private sector capacity exists to fulfill the LIDAR data acquisition requirements of 3DEP.

Using a conservative "rule of thumb" estimate of a firm being able to generate $3 million in fees per LIDAR unit per year, there would need to be 50 (rounded) operational units in the commercial sector in the U.S. to accomplish 3DEP consistent with the projected annual funding.

MAPPS estimates there are more than 100 operational LIDAR units in the commercial sector in the U.S. that can meet the NEEA/3DEP standards and specifications. This includes units brought into production within the past six years and which are capable of large area collections, and excludes older systems and those used for corridors or similarly limited areas. Therefore, an acquisition capacity more than adequate to accomplish the requirements of 3DEP exists in the U.S. private sector.

Additionally, 3DEP would stimulate additional capacity, as a "build it and they will come” phenomena would exist if 3DEP is fully funded. Firms engaged in LIDAR acquisition would likely secure additional units to increase the collection of data. We estimate that as many as 15 additional units would be purchased annually by service firms in the first years of 3DEP if certainty of full funding is provided. The manufacturing capacity of LIDAR sensor instruments is more than sufficient to meet this demand.

Under the current economic climate, it is reasonable to assume that there is adequate capacity in the market to fulfill current needs. Indeed there is excess capacity. According to the biannual MAPPS Economic Survey, only 35 percent of MAPPS member firms are currently operating at full capacity. There is existing LIDAR capacity to satisfy current requirements, 3DEP, and future market growth, as well as an ability for acquisition capabilities to grow to meet prospective increase in demand.

Utilizing the Geospatial Products and Services Contract (GPSC), a suite of multiple-award USGS contracts with the private sector that has been competitively procured via the qualifications based selection process pursuant to 40 USC 1101 and FAR part 36.6, provides a public-private partnership between USGS and the private sector to accomplish 3DEP via task orders for LIDAR acquisition. Based on information collected from firms in its membership, MAPPS is confident the equipment infrastructure, service capacity and contract mechanism is in place to efficiently implement the 3DEP program at its fully funded level.

In an economy where you are counting every dollar, it is good to know you can count on MAPPS!


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Tags:  3DEP  LIDAR  Private Sector 

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