The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) faces many challenges in its operation now and in the future. This has been brought up, especially by the agency’s broad scope, the number of fields that are covered under it and the number of parties that utilize data provided by the NGS. One of the challenges is the provision of data, mainly aerial imagery, during emergencies caused by weather changes, such as hurricanes and floods. The data that it provides are used for planning rescue operations and relocation, among others. The value of such data would be greatly increased if a disaster was found before it stroke to minimize damage caused by such weather changes. Such predictions at these moments are vague. In order to improve its services the NGS has to find a way of doing this, and this remains a challenge though solved in the course of the research. Another challenge facing the NGS is the increasing demand for its data by various fields. One of them is the increasing popularity of GPS devices for commercial, personal and military use. Another is the increasing demand of data required by aviation and airports because of the growing use of air transport, especially for long-distance travels. The NGS provides such data and its challenge lies in finding a way to handle the increased workload that comes with the rising demand.
The equipment that is used for the NGS surveys varies widely depending on the type and the goal of the survey being carried out. However, a standard list exists for equipment that is necessary for a routine survey and recommended by the NGS. In some instances this list may be found written in code, but basically remains the same for most surveys. The first group of equipment that is used is called gravity instruments and satellite systems. It includes objects, such as gravimeters, Doppler Satellite Tracking Systems and GPS Satellite Tracking Systems, which could be found from different manufacturers and whose choice is entirely dependent on a researcher or a surveyor in this case and his/her specifics for a survey. The next category is theodolites and transits, which include Instruments of Geodetic Astronomy, First Order Theodolites, Second Order Theodolites and Third Order Theodolites, 30° or coarser angulation devices and Gyroscopic Theodolites. Another group, Leveling Instruments, consists of Precise Levels, Precise Spirit Levels, Precise Compensator Levels, Engineer’s Levels, Engineer’s Spirit Levels, Engineer’s Compensator Levels and Builder’s Levels. Leveling Rods and Staff include Precise Metal-Scale Rods, Engineer’s Wooden Rods and Staff, Builder’s Rods and Staff and Precise Metal-Scale Bar-Code Rods. Other categories of equipment include Steel and Invar Tapes, Light-wave Distance Measuring Equipment, Infra-red Distance Measuring Equipment, Microwave Distance Measuring Equipment, Total Station-Measuring Equipment and other miscellaneous surveying equipment (Stone).
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From the list above it can be seen that costs associated with obtaining such equipment are very high and cannot be met at a personal level. Being a federal agency, the NGS can utilize federal funds to purchase this equipment, since it is for national use. There might be a slight variation in selling prices for different manufacturers, but usually this difference is not significant enough to affect decision-making or ability to purchase this equipment for interested parties. It is important to note that for personal use, the NGS has recommended the equipment that is available at a much cheaper cost for a buyer and gathered data would be considered accurate by NGS standards. This set is more readily available and at a more friendly cost for a researcher (Dracup).
The NGS is currently involved in running several projects and researches. One of these researches is the NGS Antenna Calibrations, which is aimed at improving and easing the usability of GPS measurements. Another running project is dubbed BAYONET, a project in the Chesapeake Bay. This research has been brought about by the evidence of disappearance of fragile wetland ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay and is aimed at finding out patterns and factors that have the largest impact on ecosystems. Other researches include Absolute Gravimetry, which looks into improving the accuracy of gravity measurements, Superconducting Gravimetry, the data of which are used for the investigation of many geodynamic problems in the present, the past and in the future, and Ocean-loading Deformations Derived from GPS Observations, discussed during Boston talks in 1999 and Mizusawa, Iwate, Japan in 2000. Some of the latest news in the NGS include hosting the 2012 Geospatial Summit in July in San Diego, California, releasing the Beta version of LOCUS (Leveling Online Computations User Service) for testing ending in this month. There has also been the release of the final report on the Floodplain Mapping Pilot Project and updates to the NGS Datasheet format, which is in response for concerns of the NGS staff and stakeholders. Another trial version that has been recently made available is the new version of the Shoreline Data Explorer. Other news include the announcement that the NOAA is supposed to conduct Geodetic surveys and observations of the famous Washington Monument to determine if there has been any displacement caused by the earthquake in August 2011.These are several events that concern the NGS.
Since its inception, there has been a huge government involvement and legislation, since is evident that one goes through the history of the NGS. Its nature as a federal agency allows for the government to participate in its working and legislation to be created and edited leading to changes in its operation. The NGS was created through legislation in 1807. Since then, different administrations with different goals have legislated on it leading to changing scopes of activity and information researched depending on government’s needs at that time. Its policies and goals are in concurrence with government’s desires and as decided upon in the Congress. As it can be seen from the above evidence, there is heavy government involvement in NGS operations since its inception and which continues up till nowadays with a number of legislations made concerning the NGS. This is important and useful as it enables greater coordination of the government operation, particularly during emergencies and in the transport and communication departments (U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey).
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In conclusion, it can be seen that the NGS continues being an important agency at the present moment just as it was during its founding. Though its goals and scopes have changed over time, basically it remains the same and its usefulness has not diminished. It has had a very long history spanning 205 years and has changed a lot during this time. Currently the data it obtains have several uses both in the government and also by persons. One of the challenges facing it is coming up with a way of keeping up with the increasing demand for its data by several interested parties. Very specific equipment is needed for NGS surveys, and it is often expensive. The NGS and the government have been interacting with each other since its inception and the usefulness of this interaction is essential for several government operations providing service to American citizens.
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