Meeting Demanding Accuracy Expectations Requires a Systems Approach

Have you noticed that the accuracy expectations for geospatial products seem to be on the increase? Whether it is for orthophotos, points clouds, surface/terrain models, as-builts, 3D city models from Satellite, Aerial or Terrestrial systems the markets demand for greater accuracy continues to increase. Meter-level accuracy was a great achievement in the initial GPS era, then decimeters, then to several centimeters and now even sub-centimeter levels are expected and needed by some applications.

Previously we would categorize these higher accuracy levels as being for engineering design projects as opposed to more general purpose geospatial information. But now the market demands greater accuracy for a broader range of purposes. Why is this? The complete answer will require a more thorough discussion. For now, suffice it to say that the market continues to demand a more accurate representation of the physical world. This is the case for a large number of applications because better physical truth leads to more efficient downstream processes/decisions and ultimately cost reduction, which equates to greater profitability.

Meeting the markets demands for increased accuracy can often be quite challenging, especially when you need to get it done consistently and profitably getting it right the first time is not easy. So, how to meet that challenge? At Stellacore, we believe that meeting demanding accuracy expectations requires a systems approach. We believe that approaching the problem from a holistic perspective and systematically engineering a solution that is capable of realizing the promise of the various component technologies, as well as meeting the ever increasing accuracy demands is the best approach.

A thorough discussion on a systems approach will take several articles and since this is our first time to write for the readers of LiDAR News I feel compelled to provide you with a brief background on Stellacore so that you will know where we are coming from in sharing our observations. Stellacore is a software consulting services company that provides custom and off-the-shelf solutions for several of the world’s most sophisticated remote sensing systems (satellite, aerial and terrestrial optical and lidar). Here at Stellacore, our basic philosophy is that Stellacore exists for the benefit of all customers, partners, market, employees and owners. With that tenet in mind we share our observations in the hopes that they may be of value to you as you work to meet the demands of the market.

O.K, so lets get down to the subject of this article, a systems approach. What the heck is that? Well, actually it is quite fundamental, assuming you have the training in the key foundation concepts, methodologies, and observations that well be referring to in this and future articles. In our opinion they are not earth shattering, yet in the fast-paced grind that the market tends to force upon us, we tend to forget or overlook fundamentals. So, if nothing else, a key take away from this article is dont forget the fundamentals that are the foundation of being good professionals (scientist, surveyors, engineers, photogrammetrists, mappers, etc.)

One other introductory comment, actually it is one of our pet peeves with projects. We sum it up like this, Why does it often seem that there is always time/money to do it wrong but, never time/money to do it right? Answer perhaps because we neglect the fundamentals. We blow-off the value of a systems approach and just seemingly blindly charge forward before understanding exactly where we need to end-up, the path we need to take to get there and how all of the waypoints along that path contribute to not only how we will get to the end, but actually whether or not we will even get there at all.

Our working definition of a systems approach is that the final outcome is the sum of the parts. The benefit of a systems approach is that by understanding how each component affects the whole system this will lead to a more efficient and reliable outcome.

Unfortunately, we are out of space for in this article. Thank you for your time and hopefully weve enticed you to come back for more in the next article where we will dig into the components that need to be considered – project deliverables accuracy specifications, project error budget, target error budget, hardware components, system calibration, system specification, system verification, software and algorithms, personnel, environmental conditions, control, reference systems, schedule, budget, and more.

Figure 1. A systems approach example of an initial assessment of component observed error sources

About the Author

Joe Bima

Joe Bima... has a foundation in surveying engineering from Iowa State University and work experiences in surveying, photogrammetry and civil engineering from Gunther Engineering, Volz Engineering, Intergraph, DigitalGlobe, Z/I Imaging, MJ Harden and GeoCue, Joe is the Managing Director of Stellacore … leads the business development efforts and attempts to manage the company while pulling his hair out trying to technologically keep up with the incredible team at Stellacore. Basically Joe is a "Jack of a few trades, master of none".
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