In today’s digital era, the significance of the aerial surveying sector cannot be overstated. As our societies become increasingly reliant on up-to-date, reliable, and accurate geodata, the role of crewed aerial surveying emerges as the primary source of high-resolution geographical information within the geoinformation ecosystem.
While satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) often capture attention in media discussions about geodata, crewed aerial surveying overwhelmingly provides the essential data at a level of precision surpassing 20 cm, crucial for critical governmental planning processes, such as fair subsidies distribution, transport infrastructure planning, and flood protection, which necessitate coherent, detailed datasets. Moreover, as processes transition to three-dimensional data, the importance of high-resolution height information becomes evident in areas such as flood prediction, 5G network planning, and power transmission. With over 90% of such data originating from crewed aerial surveying, it remains unrivalled in delivering the required geometric resolution and accuracy needed for these vital applications, surpassing the capabilities of satellites, UAVs, and mobile mapping systems.
In this context, the European aerial surveying industry has long been a force to be reckoned with. However, until the European Association of Aerial Surveying Industries (EAASI) was established in 2019, the industry lacked a unified platform to advocate for its interests and shape the future of aerial surveying in Europe. Inspired by the success of MAPPS in the US, EAASI embarked on a remarkable journey to create a network that did not exist previously, bringing together industry leaders, fostering collaboration, and championing the importance of aerial surveying. Four years after its foundation, EAASI brings together more than 50 companies, representing Europe’s most relevant players in the aerial mapping industry.
EAASI was officially incorporated on 6 June 2019. Nevertheless, the members of the industry in Europe had been reflecting for some time on how to work together toward the achievement of common goals. From 5-7 December 2018, representatives of the aerial surveying industry had already gathered in Elsinore/Helsingør, just north of Copenhagen in Denmark, to address market opportunities and challenges. Exclusively dedicated to discussing the state of the aerial surveying industry, this summit was the first of its kind in Europe in a long time.
This event planted the seed that would lead to the creation of EAASI one year later. Among the founding members were eminent figures from the industry, including Simon Musäus, senior vice president of COWI, who assumed the role of EAASI’s president. André Jadot, CEO of Eurosense, and Rachel Tidmarsh, CEO of Bluesky International, were appointed vice president and treasurer, respectively. Also present were EAASI founding members Giovanni Banchini, president and CEO of CGR SPA, Aicke Damrau, managing director of GeoFly, Klaus Legat, area manager for Vermessung AVT, and Florian Romanowski, president of Opegieka. This dedicated team was joined by other industry pioneers, lending their collective expertise and determination to elevate the aerial surveying industry to new heights.
During the initial meetings, EAASI formulated its first action plan, which set forth the Association’s overarching goals. Foremost among these was the promotion of the benefits of aerial surveying, while simultaneously enhancing awareness of aerial survey data within areas such as increasingly digital and automated construction, spatial digital twins, climate change monitoring, emergency response, and virtual reality. Furthermore, EAASI was committed to defining, maintaining, and promoting best practices within the industry, creating a framework that would ensure the delivery of reliable and high-quality services to clients.
The development of EAASI’s Code of Ethics was one of the first achievements of the Association, exemplifying its dedication to integrity and responsible conduct. By adhering to these shared values, industry professionals set a positive example and foster trust, respect, and a strong reputation for the industry. The Code of Ethics was accepted by all the members of the Association, showing that EAASI’s unwavering commitment to sustainability ensures a thriving and ethical landscape that benefits its members, clients, and European society as a whole.
In December 2019, EAASI hosted its inaugural Partners Summit. The event provided a platform for sharing knowledge, fostering collaboration, and building networks. With a thought-provoking conference program, insightful working group sessions, and ample networking opportunities, the event was a success and became a tradition. EAASI has organized summits every year since then, even remotely during the peak of the pandemic. These have become a hallmark of the Association – the meeting that no-one wants to miss. They provide a unique opportunity for the industry to openly discuss its present and future, and EAASI harnesses this to implement new ideas in its action plan.
As EAASI continued to gain momentum, it became clear that the Association required strong and strategic leadership to navigate its future path effectively. In September 2020, Marcos Martínez-Fernández was appointed as the Association’s secretary general. With this crucial addition to its leadership team, EAASI entered a new phase, streamlining day-to-day operations while charting a course for long-term strategic success.
The secretary general together with the Board worked hard so that the Association could fulfil its mission during the unexpected irruption of the covid pandemic and its consequences. To keep the spirit of the Association alive, various online events such as webinars, expert presentations, and working meetings were organized. Once the effects of the pandemic were attenuated, hybrid meetings and participation in events were restored.
The 2022 summit was a milestone in the history of EAASI. Held in Rome in December 2022, it marked a new record of attendance, with more than 70 representatives from 40 companies participating. This high turnout confirmed that the yearly conference organized by EAASI is the most important event of the year for the aerial surveying industry in Europe.
Present and future
EAASI’s founding principles resonated strongly within the European aerial surveying market, resulting in a steadily growing membership.
The Association has also endeavoured to strengthen links with associations with which it shares interests across the broad geospatial spectrum. In 2022, EAASI became a member of the Private Sector Network of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UNGGIM-PSN). The same year, EAASI also became a member of the European Umbrella Organisation for Geographic Information (EUROGI) and participated in meetings of relevant associations such as OGC, Eurographics, and EuroSDR. These alliances contribute to achieving the Association´s objective to serve as a platform for communication and cooperation to enact positive change in the aerial surveying industry.
Furthermore, one of the challenges that the industry identified from its beginnings is the low visibility that the sector has. In 2022 EAASI also recruited a communication specialist to raise awareness of the benefits of aerial mapping. Since then, the Association has reinforced its presence in events and in the media, as well as regularly communicating the competitive advantages of aerial surveying and its applications in fields as relevant as climate change or catastrophe prevention.
“Presently, the Association boasts more than 50 members, effectively encompassing all the relevant actors in the aerial surveying landscape across Europe. This broad representation empowers EAASI to speak with a united voice and tackle the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead”, says Marcos Martínez-Fernández, Secretary General of EAASI.
Simon Musäus, vice president, Geospatial Content Solutions (GCS) at Hexagon following the acquisition of COWI´S aerial mapping division in 2020, has been the president of EAASI since its inception. Under his leadership, the Association has experienced remarkable growth and consolidation in the European aerial surveying industry. As his tenure ended in June 2023, Musäus reflected on the evolution of the Association and the challenges for the industry: “We started this journey in 2018 and today I stand in this room and online with the representatives of the most relevant aerial surveying companies in Europe. Each of you stands as a testament to the growth and success of this endeavour.”
In June 2023, the Annual General Meeting of EAASI took place in Gdańsk, Poland, hosted by Opegieka, one of the founding members of the Association. After enjoying interesting technical presentations, the Board thanked Simon Musäus and André Jadot for their exceptional contributions during their tenure as leaders at EAASI. Because their terms had expired, a new president and vice president had to be appointed:
Florian Romanowski, the newly appointed president of EAASI, brings extensive experience and expertise to his role. With a background in geodesy and cartography, he has been president of the Polish company Opegieka since 1989, overseeing its commercialization process and spearheading the establishment of the Aerial Department. Florian’s commitment to research and development, along with his representation of Poland in the CLGE (Council of European Geodetic Surveyors), highlights his dedication to advancing the surveying profession. He commented, “Aerial industry is an indispensable element of the European market. We are a community and we have a platform to discuss, to communicate with each other. Even the more difficult points can be discussed, and we can in a peaceful way develop our business. Thirty years ago, as far as the economy was concerned, we were competing one against another. Now, we are talking to each other, we are collaborating and cooperating for the benefit of all of us.”
Roland Stengele has been appointed as vice president. With over two decades as CEO and shareholder of BSF Swissphoto, he possesses a deep understanding of the industry and its unique challenges. He believes that fostering a new framework of collaboration and competition among members and partners is essential to strengthening EAASI’s position in the industry. Roland’s expertise and dedication will contribute significantly to the association’s growth and success in the coming years.
EAASI’s renewed focus under this leadership will ensure the continued growth and advancement of the aerial surveying industry. The next EAASI Partners Summit is scheduled to take place in Lisbon, Portugal, on 21-23 November 2023. Once more time, this highly anticipated event will bring together industry professionals, fostering collaboration and providing a platform to shape the future of aerial mapping. As stakeholders gather to exchange ideas and insights, the summit promises to be a catalyst for innovation, setting the stage for the industry’s continued progress and success.
Ada Perello is Communications Manager of EAASI. She has a background in marketing, media and communications and is based in Madrid, Spain. She holds a master’s degree in communication and media studies from the University of Valencia and an MBA from the CECO Centre of Studies for Economy and Trade. Her experience includes positions at the Spanish embassy in Tokyo, Japan, the FAO in Rome, Italy and the International Maritime Organisation in London, England.
During the last 18 years, Marcos Martínez-Fernández has been involved in managing of a long list of geospatial projects, mainly on national mapping programs, aerial survey, urban and land planning, cadaster and GIS. He has extensive experience in Central and South America, Europe, India and Middle East. Marcos joined EAASI as secretary general in 2020, joining forces and working hand-in-hand with partners for a more efficient, innovative and sustainable industry.