Guidelines for NSF PIs Using NCALM Facility

The NSF supported National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM), funded by the Instrumentation and Facility program, Division of Geosciences, has been established. It is operated jointly by the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Cullen College of Engineering, University of Houston (UH) and the Department of Earth & Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley (UCB). Current funding levels provide support for the operation of the NCALM facility. In addition, a Principal Investigator (PI) can request the NSF for additional funds for NCALM to collect research-grade Airborne Laser Swath Mapping (ALSM) data.

In order to avoid double overhead charges, the PI shall submit his/her budget to the NSF that DOES NOT include the cost of the ALSM support from NCALM, but DOES EXPLICITLY state in the PI’s Project Summary that in addition to the budget requested in the PI proposal, a specified amount of money is requested for ALSM coverage, and, if funded, the University of Houston will request a supplement budget for the expenses. This means that the NSF program supporting the PI must also allocate funds to a UH supplement budget to provide data to the PI. The cost of obtaining ALSM data still comes from the program supporting the PI, but instead of the money going to the PI’s institution and then to the University of Houston, UH will request supplemental funds directly once the PI has been awarded the grant, thus avoiding double overhead.

NCALM will provide to the PI: 1) the budget justification for NCALM services, and 2) a letter of support from the NCALM director stating that the facility is willing and able to schedule the PI’s project. These “PDF” files should be uploaded by the PI to the Supplementary Documents section of the Fastlane submission. When PIs submit their research proposals they should follow up with NCALM and provide the relevant NSF Proposal number so that the NCALM facility can report to the NSF/EAR/IF program, the proposals pending before NSF that have requests for NCALM services.

Please direct all inquiries for NCALM services to

Responsibility of PI

A PI must write scientific justification for the use of research-grade ALSM data from NCALM in the official proposal to the NSF. Detailed budgets and budget justification provided by NCALM to the PI (i.e., Appendix A) should be a part of the Supplementary Documents in the PI’s proposal. The PI must provide NCALM the following to generate the necessary documents:

  1. Title of PI’s project.
  2. Summary of proposed work (one page or less). Summary of PI’s NSF project for which the data is going to be used. This can be the Summary of PI’s project submitted to NSF.
  3. Justification for the research-grade ALSM data. PI specifies why it is important to have ALSM data for his/her research.
  4. Supplementary Documents (if applicable).
  5. Approximate rectangular dimensions (length and width) and location of the project.

Responsibility of NCALM

NCALM provides all necessary field crews and equipment for the ALSM data collection. It processes, calibrates, analyzes, validates, and produces products (XYZ ASCII text files) of the First Surface and the Bare Earth to each PI. In addition, NCALM provides opportunities for PIs and/or graduate students to participate in ALSM planning, data collection, data reduction, and analysis.

NCALM will provide a detailed budget to the PI for the use of the NCALM facility based on the following categories:

  1. Mobilization and de-mobilization costs. These costs are based on a single NCALM project. However, if there were to be additional projects during the same field data collection campaign, these costs will be shared between projects and will lower the requested budget. The reduction amount will depend on the number of projects. In such case, each project will require budget adjustment to reflect the actual cost in the future dates.
  2. Data collection cost.
  3. Fixed operational cost (staff).
  4. For large projects, in addition to the existing support for NCALM, additional support for data processing and analysis will be required.
  5. A letter of support.

Additional Information

For more information, please contact:

    Ramesh L. Shrestha, Director
    University of Houston
    450 Cullen Performance Hall
    Houston, TX 77204-5059
    Tel: 832.842.8881
    Fax: 713.743.0186


University of Houston
450 Cullen Performance Hall
Houston, TX 77204-5059


P: 832.842.8881
F: 713.743.0186


NSF's Division of Earth Sciences,
Instrumentation and Facilities
Program, is providing funding for
the center. EAR 1339015.
Copyright © 2014, NCALM