This month's latest news includes Leica's acquisitions, Thales purchase of Magellan and Berntsen's center of population marker.

Leica Expands Presence

And the acquisitions in the industry continue. Leica Geosystems, Norcross, Ga., added itself to the growing list of industry acquisitions by acquiring 100 percent of the shares of ERDAS Inc., Atlanta, Ga., and 50 percent of the shares of LH Systems, San Diego, Calif. ERDAS and LH Systems form Leica Geosystems’ new GIS and mapping division and enables Leica to expand in the GIS and remote sensing markets. The president of the GIS and mapping division is Bob Morris. Hans Hess, Leica Geosystems CEO, said, “Our strategic objective of becoming the most comprehensive supplier of modern digital spatial measuring and GIS products is now—only nine months after going public—already realized.”

ERDAS specializes in remote sensing software, while LH Systems focuses on aerial photography, remote sensing and photogrammetry. According to Hess, “The fusion of these companies brings together the broadest array of image-based data acquisition and visualization tools in the industry.” ERDAS Inc. was acquired for approximately $30 million plus registered shares in the company. Lawrie E. Jordan, III, president of ERDAS, said, “The excellent position of Leica Geosystems in all fields of data acquisition, combined with the company’s worldwide sales and services network, makes Leica Geosystems our ideal partner.” Leica acquired LH Systems for $15 million. The shares were purchased from BAE Systems, Bristol, United Kingdom, LH Systems’ joint venture partner.

Leica now offers its customers the ability to select the surveying, remote sensing and data capturing techniques best suited for their needs. In addition, Leica enables customers to create and maintain current digital maps and 3D virtual reality models.

ERDAS and LH Systems retain and leverage individual identities and market presence while working under the Leica Geosystems’ family. Under the agreement, ERDAS Inc. and LH Systems became wholly owned subsidiaries of Leica Geosystems.

Magellan Gets A New Parent: Thales

The past several months in the GPS industry have included various acquisitions and mergers—and Magellan Corporation has added itself to the list. Magellan’s parent company, Orbital Sciences, Dulles, Va., has been undertaking an effort to refocus its core businesses. From this, a decision was made to sell the company to Thales Group, a French electronics firm. The sale includes Ashtech Precision Products.

“As part of Thales’ broader worldwide electronics business, Magellan should have greater opportunities to develop the full potential of its state-of-the-art GPS technology,” said David W. Thompson, Orbital’s chairman and chief executive officer. Thales Group foresees that R&D synergies will make it possible to expand the product range and develop common technology platforms to support growth in GPS-related services.

“Thanks to the increasing market penetration of GPS receivers, the introduction of new functions and the rapid development of related services, the world GPS market is growing by an estimated 20 percent annually,” said John Hughes, chief executive of Thales’ Information Technology & Services (IT&S) business area.

Thales already has a European leadership position in GPS equipment through its subsidiary Thales Navigation (formerly DSNP), which was reinforced in May 2000 through the acquisition of French company MLR, specialists in GPS equipment for merchant marine users, fishing vessels and recreational craft.

Berntsen Marks the Center

Berntsen International Inc., Madison, Wis., was chosen by the Census Bureau to produce the marker for the United States’ center of population based on the 2000 Census information. Each decade the Census Bureau hires someone to create the marker that designates the nation’s center of population. The center is defined as the place where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if all 281,421,906 residents were of identical weight.

The last decade’s Center of Population was located in Steelville, Mo. The 2000 marker was set on April 23, 2001, in Edgar Springs, Mo., which was the city closest to the actual center.

Berntsen created a brass marker 8" in diameter to mark the center. According to John Hohol, Berntsen representative, Berntsen used proprietary engraving technology to produce the marker. The marker displays the logos of the U.S. Census Bureau, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Department of Commerce in addition to the standard text that reads, “Center of Population Census 2000.” Together, the three organizations determined the point and set the mark.

Historically, the center of population has reflected western and southern migratory patterns. The 2000 center is more than 1,000 miles from the first center set in 1790, which was near Chestertown, Md.

Associate Editor Sharon Oselin compiles “The Latest News.” If you have a timely, newsworthy item, please call her at 248/244-6465. Also visit for weekly news updates.