Standard for a U.S. National Grid

Document number | Maintenance authority | OBJECTIVE | Scope | Sponsored by | Project history | Related information

Document number


Maintenance authority

Public XY Project


The objective of this standard is to create a more favorable environment for developing location-based services within the United States and to increase the interoperability of location services appliances with printed map products by establishing a nationally consistent grid reference system as the preferred grid for National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) applications.  This standard defines the US National Grid.  The U.S. National Grid is based on universally defined coordinate and grid systems and can, therefore, be easily extended for use world-wide as a universal grid reference system.

There are a number of coordinate reference systems that can be used either in location service appliances or on printed maps for the purpose of establishing a location.  Within automated location service appliances, the conversion of coordinates based on one well-defined reference system to coordinates based on another can be both automatic and transparent to the user.  These devices can support multiple coordinate reference systems with little difficulty.  However, it is not easy for humans to work in multiple reference systems and humans cannot convert between systems without the aid of location service appliances, calculators, or conversion tables.  Furthermore, it is difficult for humans to accurately determine a location coordinate from paper maps when latitude and longitude are used because they do not appear square on the flat map. As a consequence paper maps created for the general public frequently have a square reference grid that overlays the non-rectangular coordinate reference system. It is computationally difficult, labor intensive, and time consuming to convert the reference grid coordinate obtained from one printed map to another printed map with a different grid even when both grid reference systems are well defined. It can be impossible when proprietary grids are used.  This situation greatly limits the ability of humans to use location service devices with traditional printed maps.  Subsequently, location based services in this country have been limited to totally digital environments, restricting the number of uses and retarding the development of the location based service industry.

This standard seeks to improve the current situation by identifying a single nationally consistent, humanly facile grid reference system as the preferred U.S. National Grid (USNG) and promoting its use within the NSDI.


This standard defines a preferred U.S. National Grid (USNG) for mapping applications at scales of approximately 1:1,000,000 and larger.  It defines how to present Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinates at various levels of precision.  It specifies the use of those coordinates with the grid system defined by the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS).  Additionally, it addresses specific presentation issues such as grid spacing.  The UTM coordinate representation, the MGRS grid, and the specific grid presentation requirements together define the USNG.  This standard is a process standard as defined by the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Standards Reference Model. Specifically, it is a presentation process standard.

Sponsored by

FGDC Standards Working Group

Project history

Proposal    2000-05-03  FGDC Standards Working Group 
Public review draft    2000-11  FGDC Standards Working Group 
Comment adjudication log    2001-09-12  FGDC Standards Working Group 
Final draft    2001-09  FGDC Standards Working Group 
FGDC-endorsed standard    2001-12   

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