The 2008 International LiDAR Mapping Forum showcases maturing technology and applications.

ILMF 2008 welcomed more than double the number of last year’s attendees, including industry members from 32 countries.

The 2008 International LiDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF) was held in Denver on February 21 and 22. What started as a small gathering of less than 100 professionals eight years ago saw explosive growth this year in both attendance and exhibitors. Five hundred seventy professionals from around the world attended this year’s conference, up from about 250 last year. Similarly, the exhibit hall grew from 19 exhibitors last year to 35 this year. Fueled by this growth was a general excitement supported by quality presentations, networking opportunities and information from participating exhibitors.

ILMF is promoted as the premier event for the LiDAR industry. It is the focal gathering of leaders, pioneers, experts and professionals from government, academia and industries looking to invest in and benefit from LiDAR technology and services. According to Versha Carter of Intelligent Exhibitions Ltd., the Gloucestershire, UK-based organizer of this year’s conference, there was an increased international flavor to the 2008 conference. “We have exhibitors from China, India, Israel and Sweden, which is first-time participation from these countries on the exhibit floor,” Carter said. “Moreover, there were 127 international participants registered for this conference.” In total, 32 countries were represented at the 2008 ILMF.

Basics and Beyond

One new addition to the conference schedule was a “Basics to LiDAR Workshop Series,” which turned out to be a considerable success. A standing room only crowd showed up for the opening session of this entry-level technical series. Seats were added to increase the room’s capacity from 50 to 70, and latecomers had to take up space along the walls. Carter attributed part of the conference’s success to the Basics series, which offered a full suite of technical sessions of interest to anyone regardless of his or her knowledge of the technology.

Attendees were able to choose from parallel technical sessions on the conference’s opening day. The morning’s complementary tracks included “Data Acquisition” and “Data Processing.” Choices for the afternoon included “Technology Integration” and “Recent Projects.” Presentations on the conference’s second and final day added “Data Management” and “Technology & Trends” to the mix.

One of the more popular presentations featured lessons learned from the Louisiana statewide LiDAR program. David Gisclair, a technical assistance program director at the Office of the Governor of Louisiana, spoke on the importance of the elevation data set in effectively aiding the emergency response immediately after Hurricane Katrina and providing models to enhance the understanding of the storm’s impact and stresses on the city levees. His presentation included incredible visualizations created from the fusion of LiDAR elevation data and digital orthophotography.

Gisclair also discussed the importance of a new and accurate nationwide elevation data set and the value of planning to ensure success in such a significant undertaking. “We must have a uniform thematic naming convention. Furthermore, documentation has been the Achilles’ heel of many past projects and must be improved,” Gisclair noted. He also talked about the need for addressing a number of management issues, including tasks related to acquisition, storage and retrieval, and distribution.

The maturation of LiDAR and the development of creative hardware and software solutions for challenges well beyond the traditional were seen in the diversity of the exhibitors and in the technical presentations at ILMF 2008.

Building the Buzz

A first-time participant at ILMF, Laurence McKinley serves as business development manager for virtualcitySystems GmbH of Dresden, Germany. His firm has been involved with 3D modeling and developing automated 2D/3D GIS solutions and workflow processes for 10 years. He has seen considerable growth in LiDAR technology and noted the importance of the improved abilities of LiDAR in 3D visualization. “In Germany, we were working with two to three points per square meter a couple years ago, but now typical data sets contain a density of seven to eight points per square meter,” McKinley said. “This enables a substantial improvement in 3D visualization.” He noted considerable applications for virtualcitySystems’ services. “The main use for 3D city models in Germany is urban planning and economic development,” he said. “But secondary applications are also important, and these include 3D block models for noise propagation, flood mapping, and radio or Wi-Fi network planning.”

Joe Hutton, director of airborne products for Applanix in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, noted the excitement at the conference. “As a supplier of POS GNSS-aided inertial systems and DSS [Digital Sensor System] camera technology, both of which are integrated with LiDAR, we have exhibited at ILMF since the beginning. This is, by far, the best conference to date,” he said. “We are seeing a real buzz--a lot of excitement--on the exhibit floor. I think this is proof that LiDAR has reached a new level of maturity and is now a widely accepted method for surveying and mapping applications.”

The maturation of LiDAR and the development of creative hardware and software solutions for challenges well beyond the traditional were apparent at this conference. It was seen in the diversity of the exhibitors and in the technical presentations. Airborne applications of LiDAR technology were prevalent at the conference, but other applications such as vehicle navigation, obstacle detection and mobile ground-based inventory solutions were also evident. These technological innovations have current and future relevance for many professionals in the GIS, mapping, surveying and engineering arenas.

Special reporting by Mark Meade, PE, PLS, CP.