In early January 2011, the State Cartographer’s Office (SCO) submitted a proposal to the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Cooperative Agreements Program (CAP) entitled “Business Plan Development for a Wisconsin Aerial Imaging Program.” We received word this week that the $40,000 cooperative agreement will be funded.
Fundamentally, the CAP project will examine existing models used to manage orthophotography projects in the state, and based on considerable community input, analyze the lessons learned from these past projects. The expected outcome is a formal implementation plan (a “blueprint”) for an aerial photography program that meets the needs of the widest possible audience of users in our state.
Much groundwork has already been laid by successful initiatives such as the Wisconsin Regional Orthophotography Consortium (WROC), FlyDane, and the longstanding tradition of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission acquiring imagery on behalf of its member counties. All of these initiatives, and others, will be looked at as part of our project.
In 2007-2008 the Wisconsin Land Information Association (WLIA) sponsored a task force formed to develop ideas and make recommendations on aerial photography programs. The CAP project will not repeat work of the WLIA task force, but rather pick up where it left off, and develop specific plans toward a program the community feels is beneficial. Developing a specific business plan for an imagery program was not the intent of the task force, nor did the task force have time to perform an exhaustive analysis of the lessons learned in past projects.
The idea for our proposal grew not only from a desire to objectively analyze past orthophotography projects, but also from the recent emergence of several strategic plans in our state. The State of Wisconsin Homeland Security Strategic Plan, for example, calls for the creation of a “land imaging strategy” that establishes a sustainable and recurring statewide aerial photography program. The statewide GIS strategic plan Wisconsin Location Matters promotes the creation of statewide and regional views of information, along with “reliable funding mechanisms dedicated to the coordinated development of GIS resources and activities in Wisconsin,” both of which are directly relevant to an orthophoto business plan. Finally, at the SCO, one of our own strategic objectives is to “develop and promote the business case for an ongoing statewide aerial photography program.”
Why create a plan now? With the many Wisconsin orthophotography projects of 2010 largely behind us, now is the time to begin planning towards 2015. Efforts such as WROC can take years to pull together, so it’s never too early to begin planning. Having a formal business plan in place now also better prepares Wisconsin for future national imagery initiatives like Imagery for the Nation (IFTN). As proposed by the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), IFTN will require a business plan as a prerequisite to participation. The lack of a formal business plan could risk any future IFTN funding if it becomes a reality.
Our immediate next steps are to reach out to the community and begin assembling a team to assist with the project, and then develop a project plan that we expect to present at the WLIA regional meeting in June. Although some preliminary work will start over the next six months, the formal grant period is September 2011 to September 2012.
The primary partners on the project are the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs and the North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, along with assistance from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Wisconsin Geographic Information Officer, and the Wisconsin Geographic Information Coordination Council.