Digital Maps: An Idea
Whose Time Had Come
for the U. S. Geological Survey's 7.5 minute topographic quad maps
has been strong for decades. Customers from all walks of life have
found uses for these products - from siting dams, to planning a
priced at $4 a map, they are very expensive to produce and revise.
It takes 55,000 of these maps to completely cover the continental
USA - a feat finally achieved by the USGS, after decades of production,
in 1993. In the early 1990's, employees at the Mid-Continent Mapping
Center (MCMC), a major production facility for the USGS National
Mapping Division (NMD) located in Rolla, Missouri, noticed the rapid
growth of Geographic Information System (GIS) use among private
and public mappers and map users. This growing customer segment
wanted digital maps that would display on computer monitors. Recent
advances in scanning, storage and processing technologies made it
possible to make such digital maps from USGS quadrangles.
-> The Development -> The Production
The idea of
scanning a USGS topo map had been around for years, and no one knows
who actually initiated it. In January, 1994 a team of USGS employees
began to investigate the demand for digital maps, and identify the
feasibility of scanning topographic maps with the latest scanning
equipment. They gathered information from customers, USGS scientists
and leadership, and private vendors.
Within 6 months,
the team had a working prototype, demonstrated their work to USGS
leadership, and predicted strong demand based on their work with
customers. They called the new product a Digital Raster Graphic
(DRG). NMD headquarters approved formal product development, and
the team began investigating how to best achieve nationwide coverage
of 55,000 DRGs. An Innovative Partnership and other cooperative
agreements with private and public vendors to produce DRGs were
in place by October 1995.
coverage, including the last DRGs of the Pacific Islands territories
of the USA, was achieved in March 1998 - less than 2 ½ years
to produce more than 55,000 scanned maps, a major achievement for
the USGS and its partners. In a little more than 4 years, the process
went from concept to complete national coverage of a major new product.
If sales are
an indicator of satisfied customers, the DRG is performing well,
to say the least. DRGs are packaged on Compact Discs (CD), with
about 67 digital maps on each CD. Selling at $32 per CD (plus $5.00
handling charge), that's about 53 cents per map. Sales in FY98 were
$921,000. This equates to about 1.9 million digital quadrangles
for the first full year of product sales.
customers regarding uses of DRGs has been very positive and varied.
One State agency is using the DRG to help monitor the effects of
sludge runoff on the environment. The Federal Emergency Management
Agency, as well as many State emergency management agencies are
using DRGs for evacuation planning. The data were used to help monitor
clean-up work in the Fargo, ND, area following the 1998 flood. Private
companies, from realtors to tree farmers use them.
right around the corner - companies are writing software for aircraft
and automobile tracking/navigation systems to use DRGs for display
on a screen in private planes and automobiles. Finally, an unexpected,
but delighted customer is the National Mapping Division of the USGS.
Employees at Mid-Continent Mapping Center are refining a graphic
revision process that uses DRGs to help cut revision production
time as much as 35 percent. The DRG is certainly a million dollar
idea whose time has come!
For more information
about DRGs, visit our Website at http://mcmcweb.er.usgs.gov/drg.