Laser data creates the most detailed maps ever created for Reno-Carson

Few would have thought of a twin-engine Cessna taking off from Minden-Tahoe Airport on September 20, 2017.

And only the most diligent observer would have noticed the plane as it spent most of the next 40 days methodically flying 610 times over Carson City and Reno.

But the proceeds of those thefts could have a profound impact on the people of northern Nevada for decades.

This is because the plane was carrying a passenger using a Leica ALS80 LiDAR sensor. LiDAR, or 3D laser scanning, is a technology that works similarly to radar.

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The operator used the device, mounted on the aircraft, to capture the most detailed topographic map to date of Carson City, Reno, parts of Storey and Lyon counties and the Carson Range.

This map, which captured features smaller than 20 square inches, is 10 to 20 times more detailed than the topographic data previously available for the area.

It is accessible to the public from the US Geological Survey or the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geoglogy for everyone, from off-piste skiers looking to map avalanche risks to builders who wish to avoid seismic faults or flood zones, to Download.

Although the technology to create such maps has been available for years, it has not been widely deployed in Nevada, at least not for the purpose of generating maps for the public domain.

Until recent mapping, Nevada’s public domain coverage was limited to part of the Humboldt River Basin near Elko and parts of Clark County near Las Vegas.

Part of the reason for the lack of coverage is that technology leaped forward early in the decade, when the state was mired in a recession and cash to use for matching funds was scarce.

“We didn’t have the publicly available high-resolution dataset for the Reno-Carson area,” said Seth Dee, geological mapping specialist for the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology. “It’s something that we stand for and really wanted for research and for infrastructure and a bunch of other applications. “

The project cost $ 619,000, said Jim Faulds, director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology. The University of Nevada and the USGS each contributed $ 150,000, Faulds said. The Washoe County Regional Base Map Committee, United States Forest Service, Towns of Reno and Sparks, Counties of Lyon and Storey, and NV Energy also contributed.

Talks are already underway to expand the project further north into Washoe County and south into Douglas County, Faulds said.

“I think our goal is ultimately to have an annual proposal,” he said. “As long as the economy remains decent and there are funds available, we should be able to do this.”

The data is an upgrade from previous LiDAR cards in the region which had a resolution of around 10 meters. The higher resolution allows people to see details they haven’t seen before.

In just a few months, people have already used the data to uncover more than two dozen previously unknown seismic faults, better understand the age of landslide deposits at the mouth of Ophir Creek in the Washoe Valley, which helps analyze the risk of future landslides, find evidence of ancient lake shores in the Lemmon Valley, which helps analyze flood risk and better understand the size and history of the glaciers in the ice age on Monte Rosa.

“It’s like eyeglasses, you don’t have them and ultimately you get them so you can see all kinds of nuanced detail,” Dee said.

The maps are also an improvement over what is publicly available through satellite services such as Google Earth.

Unlike satellite photos, LiDAR can capture data in layers, which gives people more options when using the data.

For example, environmentalists or fire management officials might configure the data in maps describing the vegetation cover. Other users, such as geologists or planners, can filter vegetation and get a “bare land” view of the ground.

“That’s what’s pretty exciting,” Dee said.

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