Exploration and Evaluation of High-Resolution Imagery for Environmental Assessment

Project Details



17-611, 17-SPR2-002






Iowa Department of Transportation

Principal Investigator
Amy Kaleita-Forbes
Co-Principal Investigator
Brian Gelder

About the research

The goal of this project is to assess potential and develop protocols for the use of high-resolution LiDAR and multispectral imagery to evaluate environmental characteristics of Department of Transportation (DOT) project areas. Specifically, the research team will evaluate how LiDAR and multispectral imagery can support the assessment of design alternatives, and if these data could help DOT staff select alternatives earlier and with less fieldwork required.

In addition to capturing normal land survey and engineering data concurrently, which is invaluable to the design and project development process, we will augment this data with high-resolution remotely-obtained data. This will allow us to assess the extent to which the following can be completed using such imagery: (a) wetland spatial extent and vegetation characterization; (b) stream channel morphology determination (depth, width, centerline location); and (c) tree assessment (tree stand density and health, individual tree heights, diameter and health).

In addition to land survey data for engineering purposes, the DOT also believes this remote sensed data (in the form of high-resolution multispectral orthoimagery and LIDAR) will provide ancillary benefit that will allow potential threatened and endangered species habitat to be identified early as well as an Archaeological Landform and Architectural Building/Setting Assessment to be investigated further through correlation of field collected data. While these additional assessments are not part of this study, the images and data gathered in this project will be available for future investigation.

Current DOT methods for environmental assessment require a significant amount of manual and on-site work, driving up the costs and time associated with these phases of projects. This project will determine what savings might be realized through use of high-resolution imagery and what the break-even point for this type of data collection might be in terms of the size of the study area. Specifically, the research team intends to evaluate the use of three types of imagery at approximately a 15 to 50 cm spatial resolution: standard (near infrared) LiDAR elevation and terrain data, multispectral color (blue, green, red, and near infrared) reflectance data, and narrow-band green LiDAR imagery which penetrates into water surfaces and gives information relevant to topography under shallow water.