On 28 April I attended a virtual meeting, more than three hours long, of the NOAA Hydrographic Services Review Panel (HSRP). Members were disappointed that the face-to-face version planned for Oahu had been postponed until September! Set up in October 2003 by Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, HSRP is “composed of a diverse field of experts in hydrographic surveying, vessel pilotage, port administration, tides and currents, coastal zone management, geodesy, recreational boating, marine transportation, and academia. Advice from this panel will assist in addressing NOAA’s strategic plan to improve the nation’s marine transportation system and NOAA’s plans to support commerce with world-class products and services that will help ensure safe, efficient and environmentally sound marine transportation”. HSRP sent out a release shortly before the meeting, announcing its focus on mapping the US Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] and Alaska, taking the recent Presidential Memorandum into account, to which an initial response is expected in July 2020.
The members of HSRP are indeed eminent. The meeting was expertly chaired by Ed Saade of Fugro. Several speakers from NOAA/NGS are known to LIDAR Magazine readers: Rear Admiral Shepard Smith, Dr. Larry Meyer, Juliana Blackwell, Richard Edwing. The 20 panelists included lidar grandees Dr. David Maune and – for the first time – Dr. Qassim Abdullah. The meeting materials included a draft HSRP paper, “High demand for automation and artificial intelligence [AI] in NOAA post-disaster products and services”.
Before the meeting took place, HSRP had to change its virtual meeting technology to meet the demand and, indeed, attendance peaked at 254 plus 30 NOAA staffers, demonstrating not only the interest in HSRP’s work but the attraction of remote participation. The presentations were concise, well illustrated and professional, the short discussions to the point. It didn’t take long for lidar to be mentioned, by panelist Gary Thompson, North Carolina Geodetic Survey, who also stressed AI for disaster response. Most importantly, as far as I could judge (and I am no expert on matters hydrographic), Shep Smith reported that in January 2020 54% of US coastal, ocean and Great Lakes waters were unmapped and presented a slide showing unmapped areas (seafloor surveys) in the EEZ and around the Alaskan coast, 97% with ocean depths less than 200 m. The opportunities for bathymetric lidar are substantial, especially as the manufacturers hone their hardware and software to increase penetration and analytical powers. The services companies, moreover, must be licking their lips – those that can felicitously operate and meld the data from topobathymetric lidar, bathymetric lidar and sonar can anticipate juicy contracts in the years to come – though some work will be accomplished through better use of existing data. Strangely, the Great Lakes are poorly mapped in the 40-200 m depth range. Larry Meyer gave a compelling presentation on autonomous surface vehicles, whose role can only increase.
Though virtual, this was a public meeting, so questions from the audience had to be dealt with formally and entered into the record. The presentations are already available and a full account of the meeting is expected to become available late this month. Look out for it as HSRP matters to our lidar world!