and labor intensive to create, making photogrammetry well suited to smaller mapping projects, with diverse information needs and conservative deadlines. The exception is fully digital orthophoto production; photogrammetry is capable of delivering large volumes of high-resolution, high-accuracy orthorectified imagery very quickly and has become the technology of choice for county, state, and nationwide image base mapping.
Lidar has recently developed into a robust operational technology for the production of large-area, high-resolution, high-accuracy, bare-earth elevation models. Because it is an active sensor that creates an elevation measurement from a single laser pulse, it can map the ground surface beneath vegetation canopy more reliably than either photogrammetry or IFSAR. It relies on the principles of airborne direct georeferencing that matured during the 1990s in the context of photogrammetric mapping applications. Many photogrammetric principles of data processing and product generation apply to lidar; software tools including stereo viewing and feature extraction systems have been adapted to work with lidar point and intensity data. Map accuracy assessment principles carried over from photogrammetric mapping standards are commonly used to define lidar project requirements; however, lidar presents new opportunities and challenges to rethink the way accuracies are measured and reported. This area could benefit from further research. Improvements in accuracy assessment and reporting are needed to fully characterize lidar-derived elevation datasets and to leverage them most effectively for a broad range of engineering and planning applications.
IFSAR is a unique and important technology for the creation of elevation models on a global scale and in localized regions of the earth perpetually covered by clouds. The elevation models are intrinsically of lower resolution and less accurate than those produced by either photogrammetry or lidar. Particular problems in both urban and vegetated areas exist. IFSAR ORI imagery is useful as a base map when no other imagery is available, but it may be difficult for the public to interpret. On the other hand, ORI imagery can be very useful if target detection or specific feature identification is the end user’s primary interest. Improvements in IFSAR technology have generated a 1.25-meter ORI which may make feature recognition more intuitive for non-experts to interpret. The IFSAR height error map addresses the concept of spatial variability of accuracy in an elevation model, giving point-by-point estimations of error. Elevation models derived from any of the three technologies presented likely vary in accuracy due to land cover and slope. Traditional map accuracy standards were developed on a more simplistic pass-fail criterion. As discussed above, more robust characterization of elevation data and improved accuracy assessment and reporting that acknowledge spatial variability of error are needed. The work done in this area for IFSAR may be useful in developing new standards and specifications that incorporate these principles.