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Overview of the USGS Plan for Quality Assurance of Digital Aerial Imagery. ASPRS 2006 Annual Conference Reno, Nevada. Outline. Background ASPRS Study recommendations Who, what, why, how USGS Plan for Quality Assurance of Digital Aerial Imagery When Summary. Background.

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Overview of the USGS Plan for Quality Assurance of Digital Aerial Imagery

ASPRS 2006 Annual Conference

Reno, Nevada

  • Background
  • ASPRS Study recommendations
  • Who, what, why, how
  • USGS Plan for Quality Assurance of Digital Aerial Imagery
  • When
  • Summary

Why calibration at USGS?

  • Photogrammetric methods for map generation
  • Map production primarily done in-house
  • Quality assurance measure for aerial photography from aerial contractors
  • Leadership role in standards development
  • Unbiased, independent agency with technical expertise
  • Quality assurance for The National Map
usgs camera calibration history
USGS Camera Calibration History
  • USGS responsible for calibration services for film camera in United States since 1973
  • USGS operates Optical Sciences Lab (OSL) in Reston, VA with a custom-built calibration instrument
  • Current policy requires current (within 3 years) camera calibration report on file before award of contract
  • The “Catch-22” problem for digital sensors
asprs study recommendations
ASPRS Study Recommendations
  • Continue to provide analog calibration services
  • Develop and implement digital calibration capabilities
  • Develop standards for camera and sensor calibrations
  • Develop and implement in-situ calibration methods
stages of new technology
Stages of New Technology
  • Stage 1: Initiation
  • Stage 2: Contagion
  • Stage 3: Control
  • Stage 4: Integration
example doqs
Example: DOQs
  • Initiation: Research and pilot projects
  • Contagion: Wild enthusiasm and demand
  • Control: Define standards and format
  • Integration: DOQs critical to enterprise operation
the barriers to new technology
The Barriers to New Technology
  • The unknown: Does it perform as claimed?
  • Lack of standards: What are the specifications?
  • Lack of experience: What I can or can not do?
  • Business decision: Does it make business sense?
  • Operational changes: What are the best practices?
  • Integration: How to integrate into existing processes?
  • Overcoming inertia: Acceptance by users?
the formula for quality
The Formula for Quality
  • An independent validation of manufacturer’s specifications
  • Selection of well-qualified Data Providers with experience and established “best practices”
  • Standardized procurement specifications and selection criteria
  • Quality control measures
what is the usgs strategy for quality
What is the USGS Strategy for Quality?
  • Development of a comprehensive quality plan
  • Acceptance and use by Inter-Agency Digital Image Working Group composed of 14 Federal agencies
  • Extension of requirement to other agencies and contracting offices
  • Acceptance by general user community
what s your perspective
What’s Your Perspective?

The major players:


Data Providers

Procurement officials


the usgs perspective
The USGS Perspective
  • Image products and services for other agencies and cooperators via contracts with Data Providers
  • Occasional procurement of sensor systems
  • Quality assurance of end products for The National Map
  • Development and establishing standards for geospatial community
usgs plan for quality assurance
USGS Plan for Quality Assurance
  • Four major parts covering two major processes:
    • Data Production
      • Manufacturers Certification
      • Data Providers Certification
    • Data Purchasing & Acceptance
      • Contracting Guidelines
      • Data Acceptance Standards
the usgs plan
The USGS Plan

Data Purchasing and Acceptance Domain

Data Procurement:

Contracting Guidelines & Boilerplate Tool

Data Users and Inspectors:

Acceptance Standards

Final Product

User Needs

Sensor Manufacturers:

Manufacturers Certification

Data Providers:

Data Providers Certification

Data Production Domain

manufacturers certification
Manufacturers Certification
  • Aerial Digital Imaging is in its “Wild West” phase
    • Anything & everything being tried
    • Some metric-quality systems
    • Many “other” systems
  • How does the customer know which can produce mapping-quality data?
  • USGS to offer “type certification” of mapping-quality digital aerial sensors
    • Must be stable, well-quantified, repeatable
    • Able to routinely generate mapping-quality data
      • When operated properly!
benefits of manufacturers certification
Benefits of Manufacturers Certification
  • Communicates specifications
  • Provides evidence of system performance
  • Independent certification helps to promote sensor systems
  • Supports verification of Data Provider’s system
  • Type certification eliminates burden of calibration for each sensor sold in the United States (1 time vs. n times)
  • Eliminates need for USGS to have custom-built calibration instrument for calibration purposes
usgs manufacturers review team
Review Team Lead - Gregory L. Stensaas

Remote Sensing Technologies Project Manager

USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, Sioux Falls, SD

Systems Engineering Team Member - Jon Christopherson

Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)

Contractor to the USGS EROS, Sioux Falls, SD

Photogrammetric Engineering Team Member - Dr. George Y. G. Lee

U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA

Geo-Spatial and Software Engineering Team Member - Donald Moe

Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)

Contractor to the USGS EROS, Sioux Falls, SD

Radiometric and Physics Team Member - Dr. Robert Ryan

Science Systems and Applications, Inc.

Contractor to NASA Stennis Space Center, MS

USGS Manufacturers Review Team
data providers certification
Data Providers Certification
  • Focused on processes and process control
    • Ensures that Data Providers are operating sensors in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and limitations
    • Ensures that Data Providers follow quality procedures
  • Focused on documentation and monitoring of procedures and best practices
  • ISO-like certification process
  • Desire to ensure reliability, repeatability, and quality
benefits of data providers certification
Benefits of Data Providers Certification
  • Provides evidence of performance of products
  • Independent certification helps to promote product specifications and Data Provider’s capabilities
  • Documents Data Provider’s quality assurance plan and “best practices”
  • One certification for Data Provider and not for each camera
  • Data Providers no longer have to send cameras to OSL for calibration, reducing down-time and shipping expenses
contracting guidelines
Contracting Guidelines
  • User community is not sure how to contract for digital imagery
    • New terms, capabilities, standards, lexicon
    • Inhibits digital contracting
    • Addresses boilerplate requiring “USGS Certificate”
    • Goal is to remove barriers to digital aerial contracts
    • Encourage digital imaging
  • Created Federal Digital Imagery General Contract Guideline
benefits of contracting guidelines
Benefits of Contracting Guidelines
  • Standardized terms and descriptions make the contracting process easier and more uniform among agencies
  • Guidelines help acceptance of digital sensors and educate end-users on benefits of digital technology
  • Standardized terms and guidelines help contracting officers describe their users needs
  • Standardized performance measures
  • USGS certifications provide a priori acceptance of systems and Data Provider’s “best practices”
  • Manufacturer and Data Providers Certification reduces necessary documentation in the RFP process
digital data acceptance standards
Digital Data Acceptance Standards
  • End-users unsure of how to judge digital aerial data quality
    • New terms & capabilities (resolution, spectral, etc.)
    • Each customer understands things differently
  • There is a need for common, uniform definitions and methods for evaluating quality of image data
  • USGS to work with Inter-Agency Digital Image Working Group to develop these standards
  • Goal is a Web-based tool illustrating quality problems, measurement techniques, and standards
benefits of acceptance standards
Benefits of Acceptance Standards
  • Data consumers have common standards to evaluate data products
  • More consistent acceptance/rejection criteria among contracting agencies
  • Clearer standards and guidelines helps to eliminate false expectations
  • Ensures high quality products
  • Increases customer satisfaction
funding strategy
Funding Strategy
  • Manufacturers Certification (Cost-shared by USGS and manufacturers)
  • Data Providers Certification (100% by Data Providers)
  • Contracting Guidelines (100% USGS and IADIWG funded)
  • Acceptance standards (100% USGS and IADIWG funded)
  • Manufacturers Certification Guidelines drafted
  • Up to 4 manufacturers to be certified this fiscal year
  • Applanix and Intergraph factory visits completed, reports pending
  • A few details but no major issues; certification to be issued soon
  • Leica and Vexcel-Microsoft visits being discussed now
  • Four Data Providers have expressed interest working on the initial round of Data Providers Certification
  • First draft of Digital Imagery Contracting Guideline completed and reviewed by limited group
    • A Web-based tool to help generate contracting language is being developed
  • IADIWG to begin drafting guidelines in Fall
next steps
Next Steps
  • USGS Plan for Quality Assurance of Digital Aerial Imagery briefed during ASPRS panel session
  • Invite comment from broader community
  • Finalize and obtain ASPRS approval
  • Complete initial four Manufacturers Certifications
  • Begin initial Data Providers Certifications
  • Provide briefings to geospatial community
  • Participate in international forums to communicate plans used in the United States
closing thought
Closing Thought

Four Phases of Technology Assimilation:

  • Phase 1: Identification and investment
  • Phase 2: Learning and adaptation
  • Phase 3: Management control and standards
  • Phase 4: Maturity and widespread acceptance
  • To implement a comprehensive, meaningful process that ensures the quality of data products and services
  • To cooperatively develop the plan with all elements of the geospatial community
  • Good for one is good for all
  • Education and training for the community
  • To establish a model to support other new technologies in the future
for more information
For more information
  • IADIWG Web site at:
for issues or comments
For issues or comments


  • Gregory L. Stensaas

Remote Sensing Systems Characterization Manager

USGS EROS Data Center

47914 252nd Street

Sioux Falls, SD 57198


the usgs quality plan
The USGS Quality Plan

Questions or comments?