Earlier this week, I had the privilege of attending part of the 2008 Leica Geosystems Worldwide HDS & Airborne Sensor User Conference in San Ramon, Calif. Given the difficult economic conditions, I expected to encounter sparse attendance and a pessimistic outlook; instead, I found the exact opposite.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of attending part of the 2008 Leica Geosystems HDS & Airborne Sensor Worldwide User Conference in San Ramon, Calif. Given the difficult economic conditions, I expected to encounter sparse attendance and a pessimistic outlook; instead, I found the exact opposite. The meeting attracted its largest audience ever-more than 350 surveyors, engineers and related professionals. While the increased attendance was partially due to the combination of the airborne sensors and High-Definition Surveying (HDS) topics in two separate tracks, many of the attendees were brimming with ideas and enthusiasm.

In the introductory presentation, Dr. Juergen Dold, president of Lieca’s Geospatial Solutions Division, noted that the geospatial market as a whole is projected to grow 10 to 15 percent per year over the next several years, and Leica is on track to achieve even higher growth this year as a number of firms are turning to scanners and other high-tech devices as a way to expand their services. After Juergen’s talk, the group split up into the separate HDS and airborne sensors tracks, and I found myself wishing that I could somehow sit in on both sessions simultaneously. Since cloning was out, I chose the HDS sessions.

The speakers didn’t disappoint. Representatives from both large and small firms presented examples of how their companies were using modern scanning technologies in combination with sophisticated software to develop precise, highly detailed 3D deliverables that attracted new clients-often at a premium price. I was impressed with the tenacity and ingenuity of the individuals who have found a way to make technology work for them to create new opportunities. As Shane Loyd from The RLS Group, Chattanooga, Tenn., noted, “Being in the right place at the right time has opened opportunities for us. You have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone and make yourself available.”

Clearly, the firms that are finding new ways to remain profitable in today’s business environment excel at doing just that. But some of the surveyors I spoke with at the conference interjected a note of caution: While technology is great, you have to make sure you know what you’re doing before you start touting new capabilities. As one person pointed out, it’s all too easy to make claims about what you can accomplish, but if you don’t understand your limitations you could end up jeopardizing your firm’s reputation. Former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been famously quoted for saying, “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns-the ones we don't know we don't know.” While contemplating this statement can leave your head spinning, it rings true in this profession. And it’s the unknown unknowns that often trip up the unsuspecting surveyor. Adequate training and a thorough understanding of the client’s needs are imperative to ensuring success.

As a relative newcomer to the surveying field, I certainly learned a lot at this conference. I guess you could say it exposed a number of my “unknown unknowns.” But I’m finding that the more I understand about this profession, the more I want to learn. And truly, that is a place we should all seek to be, regardless of our experience and expertise.

I’ll be putting together a more comprehensive recap of the conference for the January issue of POB for those who didn’t have the chance to attend. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting some of POB’s readers, and I look forward to meeting more of you at future events. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please comment below or e-mail me at pobeditor@bnpmedia.com.