The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS, www.asprs.org) formed a new LIDAR division during its annual conference in May. To be sure, the society has been engaged in LIDAR work virtually from the time LIDAR appeared on the commercial scene. This work has been conducted within the Photogrammetry Applications Division (PAD) of the ASPRS prior to the formation of the new division. Up until 2010, all LIDAR related activities were within the LIDAR Committee of the PAD. In 2010, a new Mobile Mapping Systems (MMS) Committee was formed to provide a focus on this rapidly emerging technology. At this same time, we renamed the existing LIDAR committee to the Airborne LIDAR Committee.
The new LIDAR Division comprises the MMS Committee, the Airborne LIDAR committee and the LAS Working Group (which is part of the Airborne committee). The division will carry on the work being done in accuracy standards, data formats (namely LAS) and best practices.
So how is the ASPRS LIDAR Division any different from the other activities surrounding LIDAR such as the International LIDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF), SPAR and others? I have given this quite a bit of thought lately and really arrived at an answer based on several different observations. Both the ILMF and SPAR are events where we come together once a year, share knowledge through presentations and review the latest technologies via the vendor exhibitions. The ASPRS, on the other hand, is an organization that supports a platform for constant collection and dissemination of knowledge. It provides the continuity (often over years) necessary to mature an idea from a laboratory experiment to a deployable improvement in the technology. Through peer reviewed publications, it provides a system of checks and balances whereby ideas can be rigorously critiqued prior to acceptance as a practice or implementation in software.
I have recently been working on modeling of breaklines in LIDAR data (see the accompanying figures). We inherently know that a LIDAR-derived elevation model is improved via the insertion of breaklines. However, what accuracy can we expect in a model from a LIDAR data set with a given Ground Sample Distance (GSD)? These ideas require a forum whereby technical information is exchanged, critiqued and matured.
The ASPRS provides such a forum through the practice divisions. In many ways these divisions act as a bridge between academia and practice. We collaborate on ideas and attempt to render theoretical approaches to geomatics into practical applications. Through the ASPRS monthly journal, Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing (PE&RS), we provide a platform where both academic papers can be presented and practical implementation explored. Other than the membership dues in ASPRS (which are really quite nominal), all information is freely exchanged. A subscription of PE&RS is included with the membership and, like many other publications which I receive, I find great value if only one article per month is in an area where I practice.
So do these various conduits (ASPRS, ILMF, SPAR, etc.) compete? Well, certainly not at the level of exchanging technical information. While it is true that all of these organizations rely to some extend on their conferences for supporting the organization, each has a focus. I see SPAR as having a strong orientation toward Tripod Laser Scanning (TLS) and the industries that most often use this type technology (process and plant). The ILMF has a focus on the practical aspects of kinematic laser scanning (e.g. Airborne Laser Scanning, ALS, and Mobile Laser Scanning, MLS). The ASPRS has a focus on all three of these technologies but primarily as they relate to geomatics.
I encourage you to join our new LIDAR division. You need simply join the ASPRS (www.asprs.org) and indicate LIDAR as a primary interest.