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Height Mod

by davec53 last modified 2007-08-30 09:55

What is Height Mod?

  • Kentucky Height Modernization is a federally funded program to modernize the network of elevation data for Kentucky.
  • The program will enable the development of a more geoid model, providing the ability to derive accurate elevations using remote sensing and/or GPS observations.
  • This capability reduces or eliminates the requirement to perform resource intensive traditional leveling for vertical control.
  • Analysis performed by several other states has convincingly shown that the investment in Height Modernization quickly pays for itself in the savings gained by future routine and necessary projects across a surprisingly array of concerns.


Height Mod in Kentucky


Kentucky Height Modernization
is a cooperative program involving the Institute for Regional Analysis & Public Policy at Morehead State University,  The Kentucky Division of Geographic Information, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Program responsibilities include:

Morehead State University

  •     Grant recipient from NOAA
  •     Submission and administration of grant application and project reports
  •     Development of the Kentucky CORS Data Archive Center
  •     Direction of outreach activities

KY Division of Geographic Information

  •     Provision of overall Height Modernization project management
  •     Development project charters, plans and agreements Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
  •     Installation and provision of ongoing support of CORS sites
  •     Management of the award of contracts
  •     Oversight of the work

Further updated information can be found at the Kentucky Height Modernization Program web site

How will we benefit from Height Modernization?

Surveying and Mapping

Many surveying and mapping projects require the determination of accurate elevation information. This generally requires resource intensive, time consuming, and expensive conventional techniques. The availability of an accurate geoid model will reduce all these factors by allowing design grade elevations to be determined with less time and resources though the utilization of the Global Positioning System as opposed to conventional differential leveling methods.

Highway Planning, Design, and Construction

The KYTC will reap tremendous benefits through the increased availability of reliable vertical control monumentation and the ability to derive construction grade elevations from GPS observations alone. This will result in planning stage alignments and cost estimates being based on more accurate data using a minimum of resources. Cost and time savings will be experienced due to a reduction in the scope of work required to develop design grade survey data, including the replacement of differential leveling with GPS observations. A preliminary estimate based on survey work performed for highway design projects indicates up to 12.5% of surveying and mapping costs can be saved from Height Modernization benefits.

Remote Sensing and Digital Terrain Modeling

The ability to derive accurate elevations with GPS observations alone will allow remote sensing applications such as LIDAR to be implemented without the need for extensive and expensive ground control. The potential applications for this capability are far reaching and will benefit a broad spectrum of interests. One of the most beneficial aspect of the Height Modernization project is the potential for developing accurate Digital Terrain Models (DTM) via remote sensing techniques. These models may be utilized in many useful ways, particularly in civil engineering applications.
A few examples of these applications are as follows:

Floodplain Modeling and Management

There are many local, state, and federal agencies that will benefit from the improved capabilities to provide hydrologic and floodplain modeling, delineation, and management. Although not an exhaustive list, this includes local county and city governments, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky Division of Water, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Weather Service, and FEMA. The height modernization project will result in the ability to more accurately model the size and shape of floodplain zones for very large and localized areas using remote sensing techniques such as LIDAR without the need for extensive ground control.

Large scale applications include the modernization of FEMA/FIRM flood hazard maps based on actual ground conditions. The availability of an accurate statewide digital terrain model (DTM) will allow the development of standardized floodplain models covering the entire state. Such models would be the basis of replacing the existing flood hazard maps with accurately delineated floodplain zones. The resulting floodplain models could also be used to provide real time flood warnings issued by the National Weather Service.

On a more local level, counties, cities, and communities could use floodplain delineations to identify various flood hazard zones and develop appropriate planning strategies and ordinances dealing with development activities within these zones. The availability of accurate surface models will also provide the ability to develop mitigation measures with it becomes necessary for certain developments to encroach into flood hazard areas.

Economic Development

The ability to develop accurate surface models through remote sensing techniques will facilitate site selection searches that are usually conducted for industrial manufacturing and assembly facilities. With regards to economic development, the attractiveness of a particular site not only depends on physical characteristics and local geopolitical considerations, but also on the reliability of cost estimates for site development and the time required for the acquisition of adequate engineering grade survey data and subsequent construction improvement documents. The quick availability of design grade DTM data increases the competitiveness of a given site because more reliable estimates of site preparation and costs can be made, as well as the reduction in time from engineering to final construction, and ultimately, facility production start up. This will also allow detailed analysis and evaluation of existing brownfield sites with respect to potential future uses.


Current Civil Uses of GPS Technology Include:

  • Power Grid Interfaces
  • Personal Navigation
  • Aviation
  • Railroads
  • Trucking and Shipping
  • Recreation
  • Offshore Drilling
  • Surveying & Mapping
  • Communications Network Synchronization and Timing
  • Fishing and Boating
  • Construction
  • Agriculture

Utility Planning and Design

The availability of accurate surface models will facilitate the planning, design, and construction of utility infrastructure by providing a reliable means of conducting needs assessments, feasibility analysis, and detailed cost estimates. This is especially evident for utility elements that operate directly under the influence of gravity (e.g. water and sewer lines), where proper performance analysis cannot be achieved without elevation profiles. The ability to quickly and accurately develop surface profiles for electrical transmission lines would greatly reduce the time and expense required to plan and design expansion of Kentucky's portion of the regional electrical grid system.

Other Possibilities and Applications

  • Waterway navigation and maintenance
  • Precision / intelligent farming
  • Earthquake mapping and response
  • Abandoned mine lands remediation
  • Traffic monitoring and accident mapping relative to sight distances
  • Other transportation development (rail and airports)
  • Location of telecommunications infrastructure

Coverage density is essential for effective GPS operation. The Ohio Department of Transportation has extended its GPS coverage through the use of an innovative network they refer to as CORS-light. This network consists of numerous receivers in fixed locations, though they are not official CORS stations. These stations supplement the state's existing CORS stations with more thorough coverage, which results in improved accuracy for GPS instruments.



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