The Growing Role of the Mapping Consultant
Geospatial technology is progressing at such a rapid rate, with new satellite launches, higher functioning cameras and scanners, time-saving software, and innovative applications, it can be nearly impossible to keep up with the latest developments. Many end users are experts in a particular vertical market or specific part of the technology or research, but not in the actual acquisition of the data or imagery. Before the best data for the job is identified and located there are many questions that need to be answered, such as what resolution is most appropriate, what collection date is required, and what spectral bands are needed to perform the necessary analysis.
Thanks to powerful search engines and massive data centers hosting archived imagery and mapping products, it is possible to perform searches, locate an area of interest, and place orders online. However, in the fast-paced geospatial world, it’s very possible that an infrequent user might overlook a data source or inadvertently apply a costly solution when a less expensive option would accomplish the same objective. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to someone who works with imagery and geospatial data every day, particularly if the project requires a new collection to obtain the right information.
Data resellers enter into agreements with data providers to offer assistance with matching the right product to the end user. Some also offer a range of other value-added services. Working with knowledgeable professionals who are well versed with archives of historic data and familiar with the process for tasking new collections can potentially save time and money.
“To recommend the best data for each project, it is important to find out how the user wants to apply the data, what software they are using, and what analysis they need to do,” said Brock McCarty, owner of Apollo Mapping, a mapping consulting firm based in Boulder, Colo., that focuses on delivering one-on-one customer service to anyone looking for geospatial and remote sensing information. “We are able to narrow down the options rapidly, taking into consideration budget and other constraints, and also help with custom needs such as hosting and streaming services and specialized geospatial technologies.”
Apollo Mapping developed a web application called Image Hunter that runs on the DataDoors platform. End users can perform preliminary searches for high- and medium-resolution satellite imagery in this user-friendly application before submitting a request that results in contact with a customer service consultant. In addition, Apollo Mapping can assist with locating archive aerial imagery and elevation products such as digital terrain models (DTM) and digital surface models (DSM) that are most appropriate for a client’s project.
The variety of global remote sensing satellites continues to expand, which makes imagery selection increasingly complex. Apollo Mapping offers imagery from the following high-resolution (1 meter or better) satellites: WorldView-1 and 2, QuickBird, IKONOS, GeoEye-1, and Pléiades 1A/1B, and medium-resolution (1-30 meter) satellites: SPOT 1-7, FORMOSAT 2, RapidEye, and DEIMOS-1. An archive order is selected from a historic database of imagery with a specific time/date stamp and known cloud cover. If the appropriate imagery is not available in the archive, the customer may request a tasking order, which means the area of interest will be collected at the next available time based on weather conditions and competition from other tasking orders in the area. A tasking order is an on-demand service that comes with a higher price tag than archive data.
“The majority of our clients are in academia and engineering, and 75% of the orders are from archive. We’ve also had some interesting one-off requests for imagery to be used in advertisements and movies,” said McCarty. “We’re excited about the direction the geospatial business is going and are looking forward to future satellite launches. More sources of data mean more options for end users and the continuing development of new applications.”