Bi-State Aerial Photo Consortium
In 2004-2005, staff assisted in the implementation of a multi-jurisdictional consortium of local governments (and one utility) to coordinate the joint purchase of updated aerial photography and associate products for the Quad Cities and surrounding area. This is the first time such exemplary cooperation in GIS coordination has taken place in the region at this scale.

The project began in the spring of 2004 as several local government members of the Quad Cities Area Bi-State GIS User Group were budgeting and planning to acquire digital aerial photos for their Geographic Information Systems in the spring of 2005. A Subcommittee was formed in April, 2004 to discuss the idea of partnering to coordinate the RFP and aerial services vendor selection process. Advantages of coordinating the joint purchase of aerial photo products included:

  • Substantial savings over contracting separately
  • Reduced duplicative administrative costs
  • Shared GIS expertise
  • Data acquisition spanning our common metropolitan area

The Bi-State Aerial Photo Consortium was formed. Bi-State Regional Commission facilitated the coordinative effort. Members include (in Iowa) Scott County and the cities of Bettendorf, Davenport and LeClaire; the Muscatine Area Geographic Information Consortium, or MAGIC (Muscatine County, City of Muscatine and Muscatine Power & Water Co.); and (in Illinois) Rock Island County and the cities of Colona, Moline and Rock Island.

The first success of the Consortium was being awarded a $15,000 grant from the U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) National Spatial Data Infrastructure Cooperative Agreements Program using member staff time as an in-kind match. This grant was used to pay for Bi-State Regional Commission staff administrative costs.

A project of this scope and participation isn’t without challenges. To achieve the economy of scales and cost savings with the vendor, members of the consortium had to agree upon common products. The consortium spent many hours at multiple meetings discussing scale, resolution, projection, color, flight height, LiDAR, topography, quality control, budget processes, break lines, control points and more, to achieve standardized specifications and products across the entire region.

Our next step was a Request for Qualification process, from which we narrowed our vendors for a Request for Proposals. We enlisted the help of Dan Corbin, Inc. (DCI) to assist with writing the technical aspects of the RFP as well as assisting with a thorough analysis of the proposals.

We divided the multi-county area into a grid system of tiles of high and low altitude flights. The counties selected the tiles they required to be flown and cost distribution was based strictly on the amount of area flown. The cost of areas being flown that were shared between jurisdictions were split in half. In the RFP process, vendors were asked to provide unit costs for each product needed. Each member of the consortium contracted with the vendor directly using the shared unit cost from the joint RFP.

With the assistance of our consultant, DCI, the members of the consortium interviewed two aerial photo finalists. The group selected Kucera International, of Cleveland, Ohio, for the project.

The photos were flown in early April 2005. Sample pilot images and flight information has been delivered for initial quality control and approval. We anticipate full product delivery by the end of the 2005 calendar year. Final products will include high and low altitude digital orthophotos, as well as contours and digital terrain models for some of the jurisdictions. The estimated total project cost is approximately $500,000. Substantial cost savings were realized by joining together to acquire the new photography. Several participants report an estimated 25% - 40% reduction in costs compared to previous projects with similar specifications.

What started as an exploratory committee in the spring of 2004 continues today as a success story of intergovernmental cooperation. Not only was the project multi-county, but it spanned several municipalities and two states. By the spring of 2006, government and agencies that use aerial photos will be benefiting from the new comprehensive data. We hope our collaboration sets a benchmark of cooperation that can be continued or enhanced in future years.

Maps & Information

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Other Local Government Assistance
Bi-State Staff has also provided assistance to the GIS departments in Henry and Rock Island Counties and the Muscatine Area Geographic Information Consortium (MAGIC) – Muscatine County, City of Muscatine and Muscatine Power and Water Company. Staff also serves on the Scott County GIS Steering Committee.

Henry, Mercer and Rock Island Counties signed a joint soil survey agreement, providing a new digital soil survey for the three counties in the year 2001, for which Bi-State staff assisted.