Each week GeoDataPoint finds a selection of good reads related to hot topics in the geospatial community. This week, national media outlets have been talking about everything from drones to LiDAR to cloud-based mapping to driverless cars.
Time magazine has some polarizing commentary exploring the public perception of "good drones" vs. "bad drones." Activist Medea Benjamin argues that while some drones are fun and have many positive uses, both the industry and drone enthusiasts should work with human rights and peace communities to distinguish between good, the bad and the ugly. The article claims "It’s no wonder the drone industry doesn’t like the word 'drone.'"
The Daily Beast offers a look at how advanced technology, such as drones and LiDAR, are helping fight devastating wildfires. Satellites, lasers and drones have become important tools for firefighters as forest fire season hits the U.S. Satellites can be used to determine the severity of the burn by comparing a pre-fire photo of an area to a post-fire one. LiDAR is used in more complex ecosystems where modeling the different burn rates for the different types of fuel may make a difference on how first-responders try to douse the fire. Essentially, the sensor illuminates targets with lasers so the instrument can measure the distance and capture the composition of the fuel bed. As predictive modeling for fires and smoke are becoming more sophisticated, they require more data to make them work—which is why the LIDAR is used. And, once the FAA approves their use, unmanned aerial vehicles may give scientists, firefighters, and those interested in preserving national resources more information on areas that have high fire potential—for instance, parts of Southern California during Santa Ana winds.
NPR takes a look at who is challenging Google Maps. The All Things Considered piece talks to companies in the 3D mapping business: "When it comes to creating a digital map of the world, you may think of Google workers driving around in high-tech cars mounted with cameras — snapping photos of everything. But Robert Scott walks the streets of London jotting down address numbers with nothing more than a pen and a piece of paper. Scott is with OpenStreetMap, a British nonprofit that's built a digital map of the world over the past decade with the help of volunteers like him and thousands of others around the globe."
More items of interest: The Drug Enforcement Administration is gearing up to lead a cloud-based mapping initiative. And Mashable says the "driverless car tipping point is coming soon." Autonomous cars are interesting for the geospatial world because companies are experimenting with remote-sensing technology to help guide the vehicles.