So Much to Read, See and Learn!

In addition to the contributions of valued partners and customers to our annual Aerial Showcase, this issue includes articles that are exemplars of what I believe are some of the strengths of our magazine. We lead with a piece about LiDAR USA, one of the firms that epitomizes the strength of the UAV-lidar integrators. It is led by a charismatic, talented president, Jeff Fagerman, who travels the world, yet it is still a family business located in rural Alabama. Precision Aerial Compliance Solutions, the firm featured in the piece by its CEO Scott McGowan, a former Wall Street trader who now makes a living in UAV-lidar, owes much of its success to a close relationship with Phoenix LiDAR Systems, a Los Angeles-based UAV-lidar integrator led by Grayson Omans. We have previously written about another UAV-lidar integrator, Geodetics in San Diego, and we are working on an interview with YellowScan in France. The two papers from Woolpert argue to a theme I have highlighted before: the capacity and versatility of the US geospatial services companies is amazing—they seem able to take on projects that are challenging in terms of size, location, deliverables and deadlines—and succeed, again and again. Larry Trojak’s piece about Euclideon underlines that visualization is key to many lidar users. And Florian Rebeyrat’s Leosphere contribution about wind lidar describes an unusual application, something beyond the geospatial ones that we know so well. Indeed, just recently I read an article—in the liberal elite press again!—about the notion of an aircraft slipstreaming on the wake of the aircraft in front, as happens with a flock of geese1. How does one ensure that the following aircraft finds the advantageous part of the wake and not the nasty bit that involves downdrafts and danger? Lidar, of course!

I’ve tried to provide reports on most of my travels for our digital issues on the website,, but as the year draws to a close and I reflect, I marvel at the privilege it’s been to attend so many fabulous events. Geo Week in Denver at the end of January incorporated ILMF and both ASPRS and MAPPS events. Joining Lisa Murray of Diversified Communications at the podium to present the Lidar Leader Awards for the second time was an honor indeed. Events were big and small, in both Europe and the US: Esri Partner Conference in Palm Springs in March; ASPRS-SDSU meeting in San Diego in April; AEC Next/SPAR 3D in Anaheim in May; HxGN Live in Las Vegas and GeoCue True View launch in Nashville in June; Esri International User Conference in San Diego in July; Photogrammetric Week and Intergeo, both in Stuttgart in September; Quantum Spatial Acquisition Summit in Corvallis, Pecora 21/ISRSE 38 in Baltimore, and Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas, all in October. Phew! I’ve organized user conferences on many occasions, I’ve seen the mechanics behind events and now is the time to say thank you to the organizers of all these excellent meetings.

2020 will be similar in some respects, different in others. LIDAR Magazine’s year begins with hosting a panel discussion on satellite miniaturization at GeoBuiz Summit in Monterey in January. Geo Week will be in Washington, DC in March; AEC Next/SPAR 3D, in Chicago in June; Intergeo, in Berlin in October; and Trimble Dimensions, in Nashville in November. HxGN Live will be manifested in regional events in 2020 but will return to Las Vegas in 2021. We will do our best to cover these and other events for you and tease out innovations and trends that are going to matter.

It seems we’re in the big-time now and I don’t just mean that Esri is advertising in The Economist! Amazon likes lidar. Television viewers will have noticed references to flash lidar in the Jack Ryan thriller series and pedants like myself who view all the credits after a movie (and tut-tut while other cinemagoers impolitely file out) will have noticed, at the end of The Aeronauts blockbuster, a reference to Lidar Lounge, a UK-based laser scanning company. And on 4 November 2019, The Guardian reported that, “Drone-mounted lasers have revealed details of the architecture of an ancient island settlement off Florida’s Gulf coast.”2

Readers will know that I’ve been scanning my archive accumulated during a 45-year career. Recently, I digitized my collection of Optech brochures and papers. In the late 1990s, the company was aggressive in publishing use cases in various journals, back in the day when RIEGL was getting going but Azimuth Corporation/LH Systems/Leica wasn’t yet competitive. How things have changed. Progress doesn’t come without caveats, however. Gavin Schrock’s editorial in the December 2019 issue of xyHt3 sounds a warning: we have more options and more suppliers than ever before, but we have to exercise due care on how we select and use products. He was talking more about land surveying equipment, but probably there are lessons there for lidar folk too.

Mention of other magazines is an apposite, yet humbling way to end 2019. There is so much more to learn, so much more to read, than I can ever manage. It’s always worth glancing at least at the tables of contents of journals that are tangential to our geospatial endeavors. I try to do this with Photonics Spectra, a specialist publication on the edge of our field. There’s always the chance of an article on something we should know, perhaps hyperspectral sensors, perhaps lidar. The June 2019 issue was subtitled, “The laser issue 1960-2019” and includes interesting history of the technology at lidar’s heart, while the November 2019 issue leads with “Lidar: the future looks fly”, a focus on lidar in autonomous vehicles.

2020 beckons. So much to read, so much to see, so much to learn. We will try to help you keep up with it all. We wish all our readers a healthy, successful year.

1 Anon, 2019. Trail blazers: if aircraft can copy the way geese fly, everyone will benefit, The Economist, 433(9172): 78, 7 December.


3 Schrock, G., 2019. Looking forward: the 4th wave, xyHt, 6(12): 1, December.

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...