SmarTopo Obstacle Management System

SmarTopo combines obstacle survey and detection technology with powerful data management tools for a complete airspace obstacle management system compliant with ICAO eTOD2 area standards. 


  • SmarTopo is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to level 1B with a vertical accuracy of 8.5 feet or better and horizontal accuracy of 12.9 feet or better. SmarTopo is in use by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Terrain and Obstacles Data Team.
  • Confirm or improve horizontal and vertical accuracy.
  • Confirm dismantled obstacles. 
  • Discover undocumented obstacles using the Harvest feature.
  • SmarTopo airborne system collects vertical quickly, averaging 48 obstacles per day.
  • All available information on an obstacle(s) may be viewed from on SmarTopo Desktop.

Click the subject below to learn more about system components:

SmarTopo Desktop

The SmarTopo Desktop is the core of the obstacle management system. It is a GIS application which seamlessly integrates all available obstacle data for analysis and correction, in one easy to use application.

Features of SmarTopo Desktop:

  • Search the database for obstacles by identifier or geographic location.
  • View an obstacle using several image sources:
    • High resolution ortho-imagery
    • LIDAR and more
  • Review data and images collected with the SmarTopo Vertical Data technologies
  • Make corrections to horizontal or vertical data
  • Add a new obstacle or change the status of a dismantled obstacle
  • Save obstacle changes or additions to the data base

Analysts using SmarTopo can review and improve the accuracy of 20-40 obstacles per hour.


Obstacle Detection Technology

SmarTopo Harvest

A recent study indicates that there are a substantial number of undocumented obstacles penetrating the national airspace. SmarTopo Harvest is a new technology to find and identify these obstacles.  The Harvest feature finds obstacles over 200 feet. Obstacles discovered with Harvest. may be analyzed, documented and added to the data base.

In a six square mile area of Los Angeles an analyst using Harvest identified 52 undocumented obstacles of 200 feet or more.

SmarTopo Airborne Component

The SmarTopo Airborne platform is a light aircraft equipped with a FLIR Star SAFIRE 380 HD (or similar) sensor to collect data and imagery on obstacles.  The airborne system collects data that verifies obstacle height, identifies undocumented obstacles and confirms dismantled obstacles.  

Data and images collected by SmarTopo Airborne may be uploaded rapidly and immediately put in use by analysts using SmarTopo Desktop.

SmarTopo Mobile

SmarTopo Mobile is an iOS application for use in the field.  The app can be used by pilots, airport workers or the public to locate undocumented obstacles.

For example when a pilot spots an undocumented structure, the app is used to collect data which SmarTopo Mobile sends to SmarTopo Desktop.  From the Desktop an analyst may review the data and compare the structure to known obstacles in the database.  If the obstacle is determined to be undocumented a new identifier may be created in the database.

Features of SmarTopo Mobile:

  • Identify and photograph undocumented obstacles.
  • Upload reports from the field on obstacles.
  • Estimate the height of an obstacle.
  • Search the existing obstacle database remotely.
  • View obstacles and data on a GPS moving map.

FAA Obstacle Verification Initiative

In 2011 the FAA’s Terrain and Obstacles Data Team (TODT) launched the Obstacle Verification Initiative (OVI).  The goal of the project was to improve obstacle accuracy at 12 airports for RNP approach design in 12 months.  SmarTopo was selected for this project due to its ability to acquire data quickly and accurately.

The OVI project was completed in 10 months - 2 months ahead of scheduleFAA terrain and obstacle analysts were able to improve the FAA terrain and obstacle database as follows:

OVI Summary

  • 1290 Obstacles accurate to 1B
  • 111 Obstacles confirmed dismantled
  • 89 New obstacles identified and added to the FAA’s Database
  • 27 Obstacle survey days
  • 48 Obstacles per day
  • In 4 Days at Chicago Executive Airport:
    • 166 Obstacles surveyed
    • 42 Surveyed per day
    • 53 Obstacles in O’Hare’s Class B
    • 0 Traffic delays

Supported Standards

ICAO Annex-15 Amendment 33

Highlight reel of the OVI mission shows some of the great views from the project.