Intellectual Journeys

2020 Goes Virtual

We continue to stay home as much as possible and view with apprehension covid-19’s ravages across our country. Nevertheless, we can consume a rich diet of online material. Here are some samples.

USGIF’s GeoConnect Series
The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) runs a series of high-quality webinars and training sessions. I’ve participated in two of the former, in its GeoConnect series. On 11 June, a moderator and three speakers addressed “NGA’s 2020 technology strategy” and on 17 June former NGA director Letitia Long moderated four panelists on the topic “GEOINT from my basement”. It’s worth looking at to see what’s available. USGIF has consistently underlined its message that geospatial intelligence is of great value to sectors far beyond defense and intelligence. They offer great opportunities for professional update.

Honoring Dr. Konecny
On 17 June, more than 150 luminaries from international photogrammetry and remote sensing enjoyed an online celebration, “The Wisdom of the White Elephants in Honor of Dr. Gottfried Konecny”, on the occasion of Gottfried’s 90th birthday. Attendees made a big effort, as they joined in from most of the world’s time zones! Gottfried is probably best known for long stints as professor of photogrammetry in New Brunswick, where he was instrumental in building up the new department from the late 1950s, and Hannover. He has been involved in ISPRS for decades, playing most roles, including Congress Director (Hamburg, 1980) and President (1984-88). He continues to be active and is currently co-chair of an ISPRS Working Group. The celebration was hosted by the ISPRS Student Consortium and many of the moderator duties were undertaken by Gottfried’s successor as chair of photogrammetry, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Christian Heipke, who is the current president of ISPRS. The event included excellent presentations on Gottfried’s life, accomplishments and ISPRS work. Armin Gruen’s contribution included the drawing of interesting parallels, in time and achievements, between his own life and Gottfried’s. It was online, sure, but I felt honored to have been invited and to have been able to key in my own personal message to Gottfried, who watched the proceedings keenly from his home with his wife. Indeed, contributions by some of Gottfried’s family members were wonderful in their own right. Gottfried, we not only admire what you have done – we give you our thanks!

While on the topic, ISPRS has put a brave face on the 13-month postponement of its quadrennial congress in Nice and, indeed, has just announced an online event, from 29 August to 2 September, “the XXIV ISPRS Congress – Virtual event of the 2020 presentations”. Over 300 presenters are participating and registration is free. There should be some deep lidar content, so put it the event on your calendar and register so that ISPRS can tune its infrastructure to demand.

ASPRS 2020
On 22-26 June, ASPRS ran its ASPRS 2020 Annual Conference Virtual Technical Program, in which participants who would have given presentations at the Geo Week, if it had taken place in Washington, DC in March, had the opportunity to do so remotely and have their papers published, if they wished, in the ISPRS Archives. Most presenters gave their papers live, but a few preferred to record them in advance. The event spanned four days and I won’t attempt to summarize it here. The program is available online.

I’m following up with some of the speakers to determine whether they would like to provide a version of their presentation tuned to LIDAR Magazine, because there were quite a number of high-quality papers with a lidar focus. One session, however, would almost certainly have held the attention of LIDAR Magazine’s readership. Jason Stoker and four panelists provided a 90-minute session on “Multi-agency initiative for testing a new hybrid 3DEP-NAIP sensor”, in which they described test flights of, and results from, the Leica CountryMapper, a high-end sensor from Hexagon which combines elements of the ADS100 and TerrainMapper products for imagery and lidar respectively (I’m not sure whether this is formally part of Hexagon’s product line, or whether it was provided experimentally for these tests). This was perhaps the most memorable session, but there were many good ones. How successful was the event? There were 161 registrants, 65 presenters and 17.5 hours of content. In a nutshell, the number of attendees probably averaged around 100 through the week – considerably less than would have attended plenary sessions if Geo Week had taken place, but considerably more than would have attended parallel ASPRS sessions. The feedback was positive and ASPRS can be confident of running successful events in this fashion if covid-19 should linger longer.

Speaking of ASPRS, I’ve mentioned in one of my editorials in the print edition my friend Adam Spring, who embarked some years ago on a history of terrestrial laser scanning. His long-term efforts have borne fruit and his magnum opus is being published in two parts in PE&RS. The first, “A history of laser scanning, part 1: space and defense applications”, is available here. Adam’s company, Remotely Interested LLC, has paid the fees so that the articles, despite being peer-reviewed and current, are on open access. Take a look!

Forthcoming Virtual Events
Readers of this site hardly need be reminded that the Esri International User Conference begins its online incarnation on 13 July. Esri has rich experience of running online events and is more au fait with technology than most, so we can be assured that the event will run smooth as silk. The big, exquisitely orchestrated opening plenary which is a highlight of the year for many of us, is still there, but shorter and split over two days, and there is a cornucopia of informative sessions on offer.

I must not leave the topic without mentioning our own arrangement with Diversified Communications. In collaboration we’ve scheduled an online session on 16 July for a panel discussion on “Covid-19 and the lidar industry”, followed by presentation of the 2020 Lidar Leader Awards. This event is free to attend and should not be missed! We’ve put together a preview of this year’s finalists, here.

While limitations of travel, combined with concerns about our health, has proscribed many of the activities in which we would normally participate, we can use resources such as the ones mentioned here to create and relish our own intellectual journey. There are wonderful opportunities out there. Go on it!

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...