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The Latest News

September 29, 2000
The Buzz in September

Charlie Trimble, president of the U.S. GPS Industry Council, near the U.S. GPS Outreach display.

GPS Outreach Efforts

On June 20, 2000, the Interagency GPS Executive Board (IGEB) hosted a major GPS outreach event on Capitol Hill along with the Senate Commerce Committee, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the U.S. GPS Industry Council and the Spatial Technologies Industry Association. The trade fair, part of an ongoing effort to promote GPS as a world standard, featured numerous educational exhibits.

NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. GPS Industry Council and the Air Transport Association developed a large multimedia exhibit explaining the applications of GPS in a variety of industries and geographic regions. The information armed visiting officials from around the world with knowledge of GPS.

The DOT developed a brochure that described GPS and its augmentation systems in simple terms and from a civilian user perspective. The brochure is available for download at www.igebgov/outreach/civil-gps-brochure.ppt. Eugene Conti, IGEB co-chair and Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, issued a letter requesting support for GPS modernization to all members of Congress and other key committee staff members.

The Department of Commerce presented briefings to its congressional oversight committee to educate them on GPS basics and describe some of the practical user benefits expected as a result of civil GPS modernization. One briefing described applications in which GPS is used, including how current high-end users employ GPS in real-time kinematic (RTK) surveying, mapping, GIS, pit mining, agriculture and construction. The briefing also discussed how the cost of existing high-precision GPS and RTK applications will drop dramatically in the future due to a surge in receiver sales, which could lead to lower unit costs and increased RTK ranges (which would require fewer base stations).

Conti and U.S. GPS Industry Council President Charlie Trimble both spoke about the past and continuing states of GPS at the event, which attracted congressional members, including Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

BLM Proposes New Planning Guidance

Because of the complex demands on public lands due to increased population and new data on other land trends, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed an update on its policy manual on planning, expected to be released Sept. 30, 2000.

A new handbook would provide guidance to field offices for preparing and amending land use plans, including the newer, more specified Resource Management Plans (RMPs) and the older Management Framework Plans (MFPs) at the local and regional levels. It would also provide guidance for preparing and updating implementation plans. A BLM summary of the proposed manual states that it would place greater emphasis on public involvement and multi-jurisdictional planning with other government entities. Ted Milesnick, senior specialist for planning, said the BLM possesses an "intent to move forward in the GIS arena."

The BLM expects that the guidance would make it easier to update land use plans because the manual would contain procedures for implementing and revising land use plans with current and future conditions. According to the guidance, field managers would be able to update existing plans through a specific set of directions that define what new elements need to be addressed and how to go about analyzing those elements to see if changes need to be made.

The new manual and handbook guidance proposal can be viewed at www.blm.gov. The BLM requested public feedback on the plan through Aug. 9, 2000. At press time, Milesnick said comments were "across the board."

Attracting Women to the Profession in Germany

Gabriele Dasse, chair of the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) Task Force on Under-represented Groups in Surveying, reported that more women than men hold high school diplomas legitimating surveying studies at universities or universities of applied science. The number of women in surveying studies has increased over the last few years but is still low: 22 percent at universities and 36 percent at universities of applied science.

At a conference in Germany a few years ago, women were asked the question, "Which changes do we need to attract more women to surveying?" Eighty-three respondents provided the following results, answering each topic with "very important":

  • Image of the profession-48 percent

  • Basic courses together with other courses of study during the first semesters-61 percent

  • Integrating training and project-related studies-61 percent

  • More non-technical lectures-45 percent

  • Less semesters of study-58 percent

  • Higher percentage of female professors-37 percent

Participants of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU) propose governments grant highest priority to improving science education at all levels with particular attention to eliminating the effects of gender bias and bias against disadvantaged groups, raising public awareness of science, and fostering its popularization.

Other proposals include promotion of the professional development of teachers and educators and the implementation of new curricula in response to changing needs and methodologies.

Permits in a Click

Companies with digital signatures set up on their desktops will be able to apply for minor building permits by year end thanks to a comprehensive program designed by officials in San Jose, Calif. If data completed on the electronic forms is approved and fees are paid by credit card, an "instant" permit is produced by the contractors' desktop printer. Those without a secure digital signature may still fill out the permit forms online, but must print and mail them in for approval.

The city of San Jose piloted the program with the integration of existing data from Intergraph Corporation, Huntsville, Ala. Digital Signature Trust, Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, secured the signatures for the small residential permits. The pilot program did not integrate the city's database.

In the future, an expanded program will issue permits, accept fees, track plan filings and inspection requests, and track the status of projects. One component of the system stores geographic information, which automatically flags site data such as seismic zone information. Visit www.sjpermits.com for more information.

Topcon Acquires Javad

On July 25, Topcon Corporation, Tokyo, Japan, parent company of Topcon America Corp., Paramus, N.J., and Topcon Laser Systems Inc., Pleasanton, Calif., acquired Javad Positioning Systems, San Jose, Calif. Javad's president, Dr. Javad Ashjaee, joined Topcon as Chief Technology Officer (CTO). According to Bob Iguchi, chairman of TPS, "Topcon's goal is to provide the construction, land surveying and GIS industries with the most advanced, complete and affordable positioning instrumentation available on the market."