Celebrating World Lidar Day

You may have picked up LIDAR Magazine at Geo Week, or you may be an existing subscriber. Or both. Thank you.

In the last issue we announced our series of podcasts. These are continuing and are proving both interesting and attractive to our readers. We are grateful to the guests and look forward to welcoming many more. Now I understand why relaxed, elegant, entertaining talk-show hosts on TV are so highly paid—it’s stressful to provide an engaging conversation with an eminent guest and the preparation has to be meticulous!

The 2024 Geo Week is certainly the biggest, liveliest ever. Participants will be familiar with GIS Day, a familiar fixture on the geospatial calendar, celebrated around the globe with all sorts of events and initiatives. Well, we too felt that our own technology deserves recognition, so we joined a group of public agency and private industry representatives to raise awareness about the value of lidar. As a result of these efforts, the first instantiation of “World Lidar Day” is now slated for 12 February 2024, right in the middle of Geo Week, and it will be an annual event.

Already, numerous major organizations have signaled their support, with a complete list detailed at a recently unveiled eponymous website1. I’ve talked many times in these pages about how often laser scanning and related technologies are mentioned in the popular press2—so let’s do our best to publicize, both inside and outside the geospatial community, its growing popularity and value.

Another annual favorite on the lidar calendar is the presentation of the Lidar Leader Awards, now in their fifth iteration. Though not a coincidence, this year’s ceremony will also be held on 12 February. For 2024, there are three categories and four winners, each profiled on page 8 although I’ll take a moment to address them here.

The Lidar Leader Award for Outstanding Innovation in Lidar goes to Blue Marble Geographics for its Custom Point Cloud Classification tool for training classifiers, part of Global Mapper Pro3.

A most unusual situation unfolded with respect to the Lidar Leader Award for Outstanding Team Achievement in Lidar. The summation of the votes of the jurors resulted in such a close result that Diversified Communications generously offered to provide two trophies, going to very different organizations: Singapore Housing & Development Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. These teams’ projects were, respectively, Intelligent Mapping and Querying of Singapore’s Residential Estates4 and the National Coastal Mapping Program5.

The winner of the Lidar Leading Award for Outstanding Personal Achievement in Lidar is Arttu Soininen at Terrasolid6. Arttu is very well known, having started the company more than 30 years ago. He has traveled the world endlessly, covering all the bases when the firm was small to more specialized efforts at conferences and customer sites as it has grown. Indeed, I remember visiting him in Helsinki, on a dreich day at the end of autumn 1995, to learn about Terrasolid, at that time more for processing photogrammetric data than lidar. In due course, customers with the Leica ALSxx airborne lidar scanners depended on Terrasolid products to generate their deliverables. Nowadays, there’s a wide choice of software for these tasks, but Terrasolid set the pace. The structuring of Terrasolid software atop Bentley Systems’ MicroStation, moreover, changed how we viewed and used technology in those early days.

This edition of the magazine contains numerous corporate listings which ultimately finance our publishing. A sincere thanks is in order to each of the firms represented as their continued sponsorship allow us to do what we do. We should perceive them in a different way, however, not just as part of each firm’s marketing efforts, but, collectively, as a microcosm of our industry today, growing, vibrant and technologically leading-edge. We are well aware that end-users demand more frequent, more accurate, more dense, more comprehensive yet more economical data plus the increasingly insightful deliverables derived from it—the listings show that this is indeed happening. And it’s not just the ever more capable and cost-effective sensors and software—it’s the army of talented, committed professionals who develop, distribute, support and, above all, deploy these products to meet end-users’ needs. Temper that with a rich mix of business development and project management skills and the result is an industry of which we are all proud, but which won’t stand still as it meets new challenges and solves fresh problems.

The cornucopia of listings leaves space for only two feature articles. It’s a while since we published an article from Trimble Applanix, an unfortunate omission since the firm’s GNSS/IMU solutions are at the heart of so many lidar systems on crewed aircraft, UAVs and land vehicles. The piece by Vicki Speed describes some of the latest Trimble Applanix developments and their use in several very disparate applications.

In the last issue we welcomed a new and accomplished contributor, Antero Kukko, a professor from the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute who is an acknowledged lidar expert7. We are pleased to include a second piece from him, about laser scanning on remote Axel Heiberg Island in Canada’s arctic archipelago. The logistics of moving people and equipment to the research site are as intriguing as the lidar itself, to say nothing of the appearance of a muskox to observe the laser scanning process. The data collected was invaluable for geomorphological and hydrological studies of this lonely place.

Not long ago we added a new Contributing Writer, Amar Nayegandhi, senior vice president at Dewberry and another very familiar name in the lidar world8. Although he has been co-author of multiple articles in the magazine, we are pleased to publish in this issue his first piece as a Contributing Writer. Amar hopes that these articles will straddle technology and business, exploring how the latest technologies are actually being used and how they influence the thinking of leaders in geospatial businesses and organizations. His first analysis looks at the complementariness of lidar and sonar, but the use of these technologies in tandem implies a coalescence of two communities, topographic and hydrographic, with different cultures and approaches. There’s more to it than Dewberry’s dramatic nomenclature, “Fly lidar first, fill-in with sonar”! Amar’s contribution supplements, to some extent, our recent article on the Florida Seafloor Mapping Initiative9.

We hope that the content in these pages piques your interest and makes you look forward to LIDAR Magazine appearing in your mailbox and/or screen. Thank you once again for your support. Think about our technology and profession on World Lidar Day and have a wonderful 2024.

7 Kukko, A., 2023. Multispectral lidar for environmental applications, LIDAR Magazine, 13(4): 30-34, November/December 2023.

9 Karlin, A., E.S. Klipp and A. Nayegandhi, 2023. Mapping Florida waters, LIDAR Magazine, 13(4): 24-28, November-December 2023.

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...