New Tools to Meet Demand for 3D Mapping
Over the past 30 years, Armando Guevara, president and CEO of Visual Intelligence, has seen far-reaching changes in the hardware and software that is used to create maps of our Earth.
As leader of the Visual Intelligence team since 2006, Guevara has been instrumental in the development of the iOne family of sensors, including the Sensor Tool Kit Architecture (STKA), which represents the next generation of geoimaging for oblique, 3D and engineering base mapping. The STKA is a reconfigurable platform that accommodates 2D-3D geoimaging sensors for aerial, terrestrial and mobile applications and applies proprietary software to create metric products.
Guevara says the advantages of the STKA include lower up-front and operational costs, increased collection capacity in less time, new levels of engineering accuracy and simplified upgrades for customers. Moving forward, Visual Intelligence’s R&D developments will enable iOne STKA sensor deployments on unmanned aerial vehicles/unmanned aerial systems and miniaturized mobile devices.
Guevara shared a few of his thoughts about the future of mapping.
Q: What new technologies will have an impact on the mapping profession over the next few years?
A: Today the aerial mapping profession is where the computer industry was 25 years ago. We are using large, standalone machines that don’t talk to each other, with few standards to facilitate easy exchange of data. But now mapping is being transformed by digital technology and miniaturization, much the same way that the development of platforms and common operating systems, PCs and the Internet revolutionized the computer industry.
The sensor industry, in particular the digital camera industry starting in 2002, tried to emulate the film cameras: big, expensive and single purpose. The end user often ended up with several cameras from different manufacturers to meet diverse requirements, which complicated the flight planning and workflow and raised costs. The iOne STKA technology provides a multipurpose platform with modular and scalable hardware and software to meet a variety of needs.
Q: What is the significance of the iOne STKA technology?
A: Visual Intelligence didn’t set out to build another sensor; its focus since 2007 has been on developing software that is hardware agnostic and can teach a variety of devices to become geoimaging machines. The goal is to be able to put any camera model through rigorous calibration to produce metric-quality imagery, and then use the Visual Intelligence software to produce useful data products. The value is not in the image, it is in the information extracted from the image.
Q: What makes the iOne family of products unique?
A: Every hardware component in the iOne family is off the shelf. Nothing is custom. We did this purposely to meet the needs of small fliers who require both economy and high quality. We want to empower the ”moms and pops” to buy small systems and then grow the system as the company grows. The standard components can be configured to collect ortho, stereo, full-band multispectral and oblique imagery, and be co-mounted with a LiDAR scanner, all in one pass.
The really difficult challenge is addressed by the iOne STKA software. We transform devices that are not metric and make multiple devices that do not know each other operate as one. The iOne STKA-based sensor systems generate a single metric virtual image from the set of arrays, a virtual frame, as if taken by one single camera and lens. Geometrically and radiometrically, it behaves consistently to a single camera model. We successfully went through the 18-month U.S. Geological Survey certification process to show that the resulting imagery meets USGS requirements.
Q: What else does Visual Intelligence have planned for the future?
A: As another part of Visual Intelligence’s future business, we believe there is value in offering a service to develop ”digital film.” By that I mean people used to send film out to be developed rather than handle it in-house, so in the digital world, a small company with limited resources might prefer to send its digital data out to be processed, and even turned into value-added products.
Q: What markets might benefit from adopting the iOne technology?
A: The iOne STKA is designed to meet the needs of the oblique and 3D market, which includes real estate, state and local government, forestry and environmental. Really anyone doing base-mapping will eventually realize they need 3D capabilities. And we offer this multisensor functionality at less than half the price of a standalone metric digital camera system.
Q: Are there other applications for the iOne technology?
A: The iOne STKA is now being used to support UAV and mobile devices for close-range photogrammetry and interior mapping. Ongoing R&D developments will enable sensor deployments on UAV/UAS and miniaturized mobile devices. We plan to release a miniature UAV appropriate for mapping within the year. All the elements to bring forth a paradigm shift in the remote-sensing profession toward smaller, less expensive and more flexible resources are in place.