Lidar Actors in Florida

Updates from agencies on lidar collections

The workshops traditionally begin with representatives of the five Water Management Districts (WMDs)—Northwest Florida (NWFWMD), South Florida (SFWMD), St. Johns River (SJRWMD), Suwannee River (SRWMD) and Southwest Florida (SWFWMD)—giving short presentations detailing either their recent lidar and/or imagery acquisitions or issues that they have encountered regarding those products. The Fall 2020 Workshop heard from: John Crowe (NWFWMD); Christine Carlson (SFWMD); Bill VanSickle (SJRWMD); Paul Buchanan (SRWMD); and Nicole Hewitt (SWFWMD).

Additional state and/or federal agencies also have the opportunity to provide briefings pertaining to their activities. For the Fall 2020 workshop, briefings were provided by: Parker Hinson (Florida Department of Environmental Protection—FDEP); Jason Kirkpatrick (US Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District—USACE/SAJ); Xan Fredericks (US Geological Survey—USGS); and Elise MacPherson (Dewberry; Elise briefed on the Florida State Lidar program).

In 2018, Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM), Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the five WMDs entered into a cooperative program with USGS to remap 34,000 square miles of the peninsula of Florida to the USGS QL1 specification. Then, following Hurricane Michael in 2019, USGS authorized remapping of the central panhandle of Florida. The acquisition and processing of the lidar data were discussed in the USGS/Dewberry briefing.


John Crowe highlighted the previous lidar collections in NWFWMD and indicated that they were not in the process of collecting additional data at this time. He continued to note the challenge of obtaining lidar data in the Eglin Air Force Base airspace. John concluded by indicating that NWFWMD would be responding to the USGS 3DEP/BAA with a request to lidar survey the counties in the western panhandle to bring them to the QL1 level to match the remainder of the state.


Christine Carlson provided an update on the status of the South Florida elevation mosaic and highlighted the portions of the FDEM/USGS project that she has reviewed for Collier County and Key Biscayne. She noted that the issue presented and discussed at the previous workshop regarding an elevation difference between the Everglades National Park and Miami-Dade lidar surveys was resolved (see graphic to right). She is working on a new version of the South Florida elevation mosaic that incorporates NOAA 1/3 and 1/9 Arc Second DEMs. She showed an image of the remaining data gaps in the western Everglades area and inquired about the processing status of that 3DEP collection.


Bill VanSickle discussed SJRWMD’s plans for the next round of districtwide land cover mapping and highlighted a UAV project in which lidar and drone mapping were used in combination to assess and manage Florida scrub-jay habitat near Orlando.


Paul Buchanan reported on the progress of the lidar re-mapping and SRWMD quality control review of Levy County. A portion of the county is in SWFWMD, but SRWMD did the review. As part of the Florida Peninsular FDEM USGS lidar project, Levy County is the first and only county delivered so far for SRWMD review.


Nicole Hewitt presented three projects in her update: topographic lidar, SWFWMD-wide orthophoto and seagrass imagery. She discussed how the 2017 Hillsborough County and 2018 Pasco County projects combined with the 2019 USGS Florida Peninsular lidar project will provide seamless coverage with high-quality topographic lidar throughout SWFWMD.


Parker Hinson represented FDEP and the Florida Geographic Information Office (FGIO). He provided historical context for FDEP’s internal and external imagery services and applications, and outlined the timeline to distribute the remaining county imagery services acquired in 2020. As GIS lead for FGIO, he described ongoing efforts to identify an online platform to store state imagery, lidar datasets, and bathymetric data that is not under existing stewardship—for example historic imagery related to hurricane flights. He also relayed statewide initiatives and community events, in addition to a new lidar resource page available at the Florida GIO hub site,


Jason Kirkpatrick’s briefing covered the Corps’ UAS program and discussed the steps involved in starting a local program. He emphasized the advantages, disadvantages and risks involved with maintaining a UAS program and showed a user-focused planning application (MARS) used by the Corps. He offered the Corps’ standards, training, and mission management system for use by other organizations and can be reached at


Alexandra “Xan” Fredericks provided an update on behalf of the National Geospatial Program about the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) and the FY2021 Broad Agency Announcement. Xan indicated that a new Florida 3DEP Fact Sheet is in preparation, along with a National Digital Trails Project update that highlights the addition of Florida trails in the TRAILS Decision Support Tool. Her briefing concluded with a message about the Florida Coastal Mapping Program (FCMaP) Virtual Forum on 3 December 2020.

Florida Statewide Lidar

Elise MacPherson presented the Florida Statewide Lidar Mapping Project on behalf of Dewberry. The presentation started with an overview of the Florida Peninsular project and proceeded to discuss the challenges and issues encountered with the project. She outlined problems with calibration, classification, and breaklining, along with the complexities of having multiple data collectors, compilers, and levels of external review.

Dewberry responded to the challenges and Elise gave details of the current processing and updated delivery schedule and presented the plan for the Florida Peninsular-phase of the project to be delivered and accepted by USGS in mid-2021. Given the uncertainties of the pandemic, however, the schedules remain flexible and subject to modification.

She finished the briefing with the introduction of the recently awarded USGS Hurricane Michael QL1 lidar acquisition in the central panhandle of Florida. She indicated that data acquisition was completed in April 2020, and the pilot area was delivered in May 2020. Project completion is anticipated in late May 2021.

Alvan “Al” Karlin, PhD, CMS, GISP is a senior GIS professional at Dewberry, and was formerly with the SWFWMD, where he managed all the remote sensing and lidar-related projects in mapping and GIS. With Dewberry, he serves as a consultant on Florida-related lidar and imagery projects, as well as general GIS-related projects. He has a Ph.D. in computational theoretical genetics from Miami University in Ohio. He is the immediate past president of the Florida Region of ASPRS, an ASPRS Certified Mapping ScientistLidar, and a GIS Certification Institute Professional.

Matt LaLuzerne, PSM is vice president and strategic growth director at GPI Geospatial, Inc. and has over 15 years of experience managing and performing various types of survey and geospatial products, ranging from traditional boundary and control work to multi-platform remote sensing services. He has worked closely with public and private clients to establish clear and concise methods for data collection, processing, and final deliverable products. Matt has given countless presentations and continues educational classes and technical seminars for ASPRS, FDOT, FSMS, ACEM, TUC and TEAMFL, and is contributing to the continued growth of the geospatial industry.