Web Exclusive: Conference Recap: Preparing for Change

April 30, 2009
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Despite the challenging economy, a record crowd of more than 1,500 people attended the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) 2009 Annual Conference March 9-13 at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Baltimore. The conference marked the 75th anniversary for the society and carried the theme “Reflection of the Past – Vision of the Future.”

According to Dr. Bradley D. Doorn, the society’s new president, the conference location contributed to the increased number of visitors, but individuals and corporations are also seeking a greater understanding of how to apply remote sensing and photogrammetry technologies in a practical and cost-effective way. “People are seeing that they can now use this technology and data for all sorts of applications,” Doorn says. “It isn’t just specialized for certain segments of the government or profession; it’s getting pervasive use in the public. And that’s a challenge for us as professionals-we have to figure out what our role is in making sure that we’re at the forefront and relevant to these applications.”

Doorn addressed attendees during the General Session on March 12 with a presentation titled “Mapping, Monitoring and Preparing for Change,” in which he discussed the ability of photogrammetry and remote sensing technologies to meet the needs of a changing world. It’s a theme that ASPRS understands well but hasn’t always communicated clearly. In the past, the society’s membership and conferences were dominated by researchers and scientists. However, all that is changing as more businesses embrace the practical aspects of the technologies. “ASPRS is about the relevance of the science, not just the science itself,” Doorn says. “Today, we have a full spectrum of members, from students to academics to the government and business side, and we’re striving to link these areas together.”

Education and Outreach

According to Doorn, ASPRS has always sought to engage its members. Recently, however, the society has begun placing more of an emphasis on engaging students. “We’ve heard from academics and business professionals about the need in the U.S. for an educated and high-tech workforce that’s active in the geospatial arena-specifically with regard to imagery,” Doorn says. “So we’ve started this year to put a lot more emphasis on student activities.”

The society is also actively involved in supporting both its individual and corporate members through the current economic challenges by allowing laid-off members to keep their member privileges even if they can’t pay their dues and by ensuring that the society’s certification program has real employment value. “We want to enable our members to get the skills they need for a better job, maybe internships, experience, education,” Doorn says. “We have an ad hoc committee that is putting together a plan that addresses what we can do as a society to assist our individual members with networking and job searches and to assist the sustaining members that are posting jobs and searching for new workers.” Doorn notes that the society’s regional groups and conferences continue to play a key role in networking and membership involvement.

On a broader scale, the society is pursuing strategies that will help its members communicate the importance of remote sensing technologies and technical expertise in fields such as climate change, biofuels and food security. ASPRS advisory groups work closely with the federal government on policy issues related to geospatial activities to help ensure that informed decisions are made, and it encourages its members to get involved in the dialogue. “I think we can still do a lot to answer the questions, ‘Where do the remote sensing skills and data fit into this new dynamic geospatial era’ and ‘Where do we look for the expertise that we need?’” Doorn says. “We know [remote sensing] is relevant and extremely important. But how are businesses going to manage it? How’s the government going to support it? These are some of the issues we’re still monitoring, and the dialogue will be continuous.”

A Changing Future

The changes that are occurring in the use of remote sensing technologies and photogrammetry are reflected in ASPRS’s membership. While Doorn says that membership numbers have remained steady-no small feat in the current economic climate-the types of firms that are involved in the organization have changed as firms seek to become more diversified. For example, the society has seen increased involvement from GIS professionals who are interested in understanding how to collect data from imagery and from surveyors who have moved into photogrammetry. The society’s traditional members are evolving, as well, as they embrace new technologies and applications.

Through its connections to the private sector, academia and government agencies, ASPRS seeks to bridge the gaps and pave the way to a successful future for its members.

“Our heritage is remote sensing and photogrammetry,” Doorn says. “We want to continue that, but we want to recognize that in this new world that we’re in, these technologies and capabilities are evolving. We want to make sure that our members are getting the services they need and getting their needs met in this new environment.”

For more information about ASRPS, visit www.asprs.org.

SIDEBAR: Exhibition Highlights

The exhibit area at the ASPRS conference was completely sold out with more than 80 vendors from around the world highlighting some of the latest products and services. Here’s a sampling of some of those products:

OPTECH showcased the ALTM Orion ultracompact topographic mapping system. Based on Optech’s iFLEX technology, the device is designed to provide high accuracy and precision regardless of the pulse rate. The system features ALTM-NAV flight management software with underlying digital elevation model (DEM) planning capability, real-time swath coverage directly exportable to Google Earth and other programs, and DASHMap LiDAR preprocessing software with an embedded 3D viewer for rapid XYZI data output and visualization. According to the company, tightly coupled inertial and virtual reference system processing technology enables steep turns, extends baselines and eliminates remote base stations for maximum collection efficiency without sacrificing accuracy. Optional integrated digital camera, hyperspectral and waveform digitizer solutions are available for multiple data end products. (www.optech.ca)

ITT VISUAL INFORMATION SOLUTIONS, a wholly owned subsidiary of ITT Corp., released ENVI 4.6 software for processing and analyzing geospatial imagery. The newest ENVI release builds on workflow advances introduced in earlier versions by delivering automated processes and procedures that walk users through previously complex image processing and analysis tasks. ENVI 4.6 also adds file format support for image data from the new GeoEye-1 and KOMPSAT-2 satellites. New tools include anomaly detection, a Google Earth bridge, image to map registration, terrain-based orthorectification, and enhanced change detection. In addition, ENVI 4.6 also introduces a new Target Detection Wizard for finding specific objects in large image scenes.

ITT also released the ENVI Orthorectification Module, a new add-on module to ENVI. The new module combines the advanced, rigorous model from renowned orthorectification experts, Spacemetric, with an ENVI-based automated workflow approach that steps users through the orthorectification process to geometrically correct an image to remove distortions that occur during image capture. Providing support for a wide set of both satellite and aerial sensors, the module makes the complex task of orthorectifying imagery accessible to image analysts of various experience levels while providing mathematically accurate results. (www.itvis.com)

JENOPTIK launched the Jena Airborne Scanner JAS 150s for remote sensing and photogrammetry. The system provides a maximum resolution of 6 inches at a 9,800-foot flight altitude and real 2-inch ground pixel resolution at reasonable air speeds and a flight altitude of 3,300 feet. It is designed to deliver orthophotos with a geolocation accuracy of up to a few centimeters. The unit is available in two different rack systems. The “all in one” system includes the camera control system, power supply, solid-state storage module, monitor and flight management system. The “flexible rack” includes the camera control and storage system, GPS/INS system and monitor, which can be connected and flexibly mounted in the plane. (www.jena-optronik.de)

APPLANIX, a Trimble Company, highlighted the DSS RapidOrtho, a medium-format digital aerial imaging solution that fuses a 39 megapixel aerial camera, a flight management system, a GNSS-aided INS direct georeferencing system and a full suite of processing software. The system captures and generates high-resolution color and color-infrared digital orthophotos and orthomosaics from the air to produce an accurate and radiometrically consistent product with 0.033 m to 1 m ground sample distance (the size of each pixel on the ground). Orthophotos are created using raw imagery captured by the camera combined with the Applanix POS AV direct exterior orientation and a digital elevation model (DEM). The digital sensor system improves work flow from data capture to georeferencing, and calibrated imagery is optimized by the Applanix software to provide an efficient and accurate way of rapidly producing product without the need to recalibrate before every project. (www.applanix.com)

PCI GEOMATICS released the ProLines GeoImaging Server, an off-the-shelf, hardware-based, high-performance satellite image processing system. Designed to reduce bottlenecks for image preprocessing, the system combines the power and precision of graphical processing units (GPU) with the accuracy and expertise of PCI’s automated work flows. The system automates repetitive and time-consuming tasks, provides consistent results, improves operational efficiency, reduces labor costs and shortens delivery cycles. The server can be configured as a desk-side or rack-mount system, and key components such as data storage and GPU processing can be upgraded to meet client needs. (www.pcigeomatics.com)

VEXCEL IMAGING GMBH (Microsoft’s Photogrammetry division) introduced the UltraCamLp medium-format digital aerial photogrammetric camera. Based on the UltraCamL, the UltraCamLp features the same technical specifications with a larger-format collection capability of 92 megapixels (11,704 x 7,920 pixels pan) compared to the UltraCamL’s 64 megapixel format. Like the UltraCamL, the UltraCamLp features a 1:2.2 pan sharpen ratio and collects RGB and near infrared (NIR) in parallel, all with forward motion compensation by time delay integration (TDI), which allows the camera to deliver brilliant true-color and color-infrared (CIR) image quality with a high radiometric range. It also takes advantage of the computing and storage subsystems introduced with the UltraCamX large-format sensor system, which includes removable storage units for longer flight missons and reduced ground time but uses solid-state devices for higher integration. Delivery of the new system will begin in November 2009. (www.vexcel.com)

ISTS AMERICAS CORP. launched AirCarto, a turnkey digital aerial photography system consisting of a gyrostabilized mount, GPS receiver and antenna, digital camera, and Radmetry software. At 16 in x 16 in x 9.5 in and 40 lb, the system is designed to be smaller, lighter and less expensive than other medium-format systems. The Radmetry software uses an internationally patented “soft gyro” process that reportedly eliminates the need for inertial measurement unit (IMU) data; only digital images and GPS data are needed to produce a standard ortho and full ortho data set, including a digital elevation model (DEM) set. (www.istsamericas.com)

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