Enjoying the Energy

In the last issue, we reflected on the rambunctious nature of our industry and the likelihood that it will enjoy rapid growth over the next few years. Since then, we have been privileged to attend events and talk to movers and shakers, enjoying the energy, that lidar liveliness.

Leica Geosystems President Juergen Dold unveils the BLK2GO at HxGN Live.

Hexagon once again laid on superb, informative events for the media at HxGN Live 2019 in Las Vegas, which attracted more than 3000 participants. The media group was given a tour of the exhibition area—the Zone—and your editor was seen attempting to hold a voice recorder, take a photo and write notes all at the same time. One-on-one interviews with Hexagon executives were arranged for us, but LIDAR Magazine’s session with Carl-Thomas Schneider, VP Business Development, Hexagon Geosystems, could not take place owing to a clash, so I submitted questions in writing. Carl-Thomas pressganged some colleagues to help, resulting in some intriguing insights—see page 6. While choosing between 500+ sessions was tormenting, it would have been unwise to miss the big plenary keynotes. Hexagon CEO Ola Rollén gave the event a thought-provoking opening entitled, “Can data save the world”. Hexagon Geosystems president Jürgen Dold’s keynote was as polished and compelling as ever and the audience was enraptured by the new BLK models he announced, BLK247 and BLK2GO. Given the success of the BLK360, these visually stunning products should sell widely, may well be disruptive and will feature in many projects in the near future. For all this modernity, he did not shy from reminding us that the earliest predecessor company of Hexagon, Kern had been founded 200 years ago. I took in a Taliesin West presentation and extracted the promise of an article! This is especially welcome given the recent news that Taliesin Wisconsin has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Next year Hexagon will focus on regional events in different cities round the world, but HxGN Live 2021 will return to Las Vegas—mark your calendars for 15-18 June.

Shortly thereafter, LIDAR Magazine accepted an invitation from GeoCue to attend the launch of its new True View product in Nashville, Tennessee. This was attended by around 40 GeoCue personnel, customers and invited experts. It was an unexpected surprise to be greeted at the door by Martin Flood, on his first day back at GeoCue after a spell at Teledyne Optech. GeoCue’s reputation for undemonstrative, informative presentations suffered no harm as we heard from Lewis Graham and several of his colleagues, who were complemented by speakers from Vulcan Materials, a UAV user in the construction aggregates space, Applanix, RIEGL, Drone Rescue Systems (impressive parachute systems) and MFE Insurance Brokerage. True View is a combined lidar and imagery sensor designed for mounting on UAVs. Two GeoCue Mapping Cameras provide a 120° field of view, coincident with the laser scanner track. The 25° oblique mounting ensures the sides of objects are imaged, allowing a true 3D colorization of all lidar points. The True View range will comprise several models, but the first, True View 410, has a Quanergy M8 Ultra laser scanner, which can fly at up to 100 m and provides three returns. An Applanix APX GNSS/IMU is incorporated, which comes with Applanix software and the option to subscribe to Trimble’s positioning services. Full details can be found on page 44, but we must not end without mentioning the onboard processing on a Google® Coral TensorFlow Processing Unit, GeoCue’s own True View Evo post-processing software and a choice of purchase and subscription options. Clearly, True View has been meticulously designed by a company with extensive experience of both integration and the provision of services.

Less than two weeks later, LIDAR Magazine’s presence at the annual Esri jamboree in San Diego began with the Imagery Summit pre-conference event, which attracted more than 200 participants to learn about Esri’s latest developments on the imagery side. Esri’s Director of Global Remote Sensing and Imagery, Richard Cooke, opened the meeting and explained how Esri is tuning its structure to give even better products and support to its imagery customers. See page 8 for more. The main International User Conference ran from Monday to Friday as usual and this year attracted a record 18,587 registrants. In addition, Esri had more than 26,652 unique viewers of the plenary livestream and stated that a combined number of 45,239 people participated in this year’s conference. The big plenary, beautifully orchestrated and well presented by Jack Dangermond together with numerous colleagues and guests, was as awe inspiring as ever. LIDAR Magazine liked a presentation by the City of Pasadena, which is using GIS to enormous advantage in multiple municipal departments, but the show was stolen by three students from schools in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, a town hard hit by The Troubles. The students were introduced by a policeman from Lurgan, then spoke about their use of Esri products to conduct a field survey and analyze the results, about comfort levels of people in Lurgan at different sites and different times of day.

Jack Dangermond discusses conservation and biodiversity with the legendary Jane Goodall.

The session was concluded with brief words from Lurgan teachers and LIDAR Magazine was by no means the only lachrymose attendee. Like Hexagon, Esri laid on a fabulous program for the gentlepersons of the press, including guided tours of the exhibition and the map gallery as well as small-group access to senior Esri executives and to Jack Dangermond together with two of his VIP guests, Drs. Jane Goodall, DBE, and E O Wilson.

Esri has run user conferences since the beginning of the 1980s, when it was changing from a consultancy to a software supplier. With its enormous International User Conference coming hot on the heels of HxGN Live, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the role of these meetings, run by private companies rather than professional societies or conference organizers. We have spoken about Trimble’s biennial Dimensions event in these pages too—and there are many others. Your editor was involved in running such meetings during his career on the supplier side, but his first effort, the UK Kern DSR user meeting in York, England, in 1987, with 13 customers, was smaller! Attendance at the Esri event nudges Intergeo into second place. It’s eight times as big as an ISPRS Congress more than twelve times as big as Geo Week, and more than double ACSM-ASPRS in its heyday 30 years ago. These user meetings not only present the latest technologies, they encourage and publicize imaginative and challenging applications. Many speakers at these meetings do not publish in academic journals, but they are instrumental in advancing the technology and its uses. Nevertheless, many academics take advantage of this sort of platform. User conferences are more brash, perhaps, than academic conferences, yet they are a broader church. They complement the academic events, so the two together provide effective vehicles for reporting and fomenting developments in our lidar world.

In an earlier editorial, I warned that Système International d’Unités (SI) definitions of fundamental units of measurement were about to change. They have, and on 20 May 2019, the kilogram was redefined1. It is no longer the mass of a chunk of metal inside a series of bell jars in a vault near Paris, but is now defined in terms of the Planck constant which has been measured with extraordinary precision in recent years: its agreed value is 6.626,070,15 × 10-34 kg m2 s–1. Remember that the meter and the second have already been defined. Readers may wish to incorporate the new definition when considering lidar payloads for UAVs.

1 Anon, 2019. Perfectly constant, The Economist, 431(9143): 75, 18 May.

About the Author

Dr. A. Stewart Walker

Stewart is the Managing Editor of the magazine. He holds MA, MScE and PhD degrees in geography and geomatics from the universities of Glasgow, New Brunswick and Bristol, and an MBA from Heriot-Watt. He is an ASPRS-certified photogrammetrist. More articles...