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Volume 27 Issue 9 (September 2017)

GSA Today

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Article, pp. 4-10 | Full Text | PDF (1MB)

The New World of 3D Geologic Mapping

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Terry L. Pavlis, Kelsey A. Mason

Department of Geological Sciences, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas 79968, USA


Digital geologic mapping is now a fully mature technology that dramatically improves field efficiency and problem solving capabilities. Basic digital mapping is just the tip of the iceberg, however, in regard to new and approaching capabilities with true 3D mapping. The key advance is the ability to easily construct high-resolution, photorealistic terrain models as a base surface for 3D mapping using Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry terrain models, particularly through the aid of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). We show how these technologies can aid field visualization and discuss how developing digital field workflows and 3D visualizations will transform field studies, allowing the resolution of problems that were impossibly complex without this technology.

Manuscript received 18 July 2016; Revised manuscript received 31 Jan. 2017; Manuscript accepted 12 Feb. 2017; Published online 27 Mar. 2017

© The Geological Society of America, 2017.