NIMA builds a map database
Since January 1996, Katie Touve and 29 other National Imagery and Mapping Agency
cartographers have been busy constructing a multilayered geospatial database that will
open for business around 2003.
National policy-makers and the Defense Department will be among those who use NIMA's
databases of satellite imagery and other remote sensing data.
As the cartographers work on the agency's Global Geospatial Information and Services
Testbed, their goal "is to migrate from the product-specific data that's currently
online to a layered database that is not tied to any specific product," Touve said.
"A layered database will allow NIMA customers to tailor information to create
their own [mapping] products," she said.
"It's outreach to geospatial customers," said Irv Buck, chairman of the
geospatial integrated product team at NIMA in Bethesda, Md.
The agency's cartographers are deployed in several locations in the United States
and overseas to assist customers who need the power of GIS and the expertise of a
cartographer, he said.
The testbed also serves as the foundation for a geographic information system
infrastructure at NIMA.
Touve works with the ArcView GIS 3.0 and Arc/Info 7.0.4 GIS packages. "We're
doing beta testing to see if Arc/View can be used directly without importing vector
data," Touve said. Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. of Redlands, Calif.,
sells both apps.
For image enhancement, the cartographers use Imagine 8.2 from Erdas Inc. of Atlanta.
Imagine lets them create Arc vectors from the existing NIMA vector product format (VPF)
VPF is a DOD standard, and NIMA products must be consistent with the Defense
Information Infrastructure for the agency's DOD and intelligence customers. NIMA officials
also want to encourage companies to develop products to work with the VPF data, Buck said.
"If we build it and put the data out there, they will come," Buck said.
The cartographers can integrate, update and manipulate Arc files within Imagine. The
vectors remain in the Arc format, and the system is free of file conversion and
"Using the Imagine Vector module, we can create new vectors," Touve said.
Vector-formatted data lets users turn different data fields on and off because sometimes
"an audience doesn't need all the detail," she explained.
The first group of cartographers deployed with Touve last winter use Sun
Microsystems Sparcstation 20 workstations with 128M RAM, 8G hard drives and 8M tape
Other cartographers use Sun Ultra 1 workstations running Solaris 2.4 and 2.5. NIMA
does not use PCs for desktop mapping because of its large image file size requirements.
Touve said NIMA paid $27,000 for each Ultra 1 with disk, memory upgrade, CD-ROM
jukebox, CD authority station and printer. The agency bought the systems though existing
DOD contracts with Sun Microsystems.
Prices for ArcView GIS start at $1,300, with extensions costing extra, Touve said,
and a license for Arc/Info is about $10,000. NIMA bought the software through the Defense
Intelligence Agency's Systems Acquisition Support Services contract with BTG Inc. of
NIMA's Enhanced Product Prototyping Environment laboratories in Bethesda and St.
Louis are also testing other software.