Delivering the world through maps

September 30, 2019  - By
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GIS ready to meet demands of IoT, smart cities

The mapping industry has taken to UAVs — sort of. Put it this way: UAVs are only one tool in the GIS (geographic information system) toolbox.

A third of our respondents (32%) say that UAVs will be used for less than 10% of field survey activity in the next three years. In contrast, a quarter of our respondents say that drones with variety of sensors (photogrammetric, lidar, hyperspectral, etc.) will perform up to half of mapping work.

The response is similar to replies in 2018. While UAVs are an exciting new technology for mapping, most respondents to our survey recognize the continued value of hands-on, in-the-field data collection. In fact, only 11% of respondents expect that mapping work on the ground will gradually disappear over the next three years.

Chart: GPS World

Chart: GPS World

Sensors Aboard. When on board a UAV, 43% say the best sensor to use in conjunction with GPS/GNSS for mapping and data collection is a high-resolution still-image camera, which is highly preferred over video cameras. Today’s high-resolution cameras can capture details down to a few centimeters on the ground, even from an aircraft hundreds of feet in the air (see our August issue for more on aerial mapping).

Other top sensor choices for our readers include lidar (light detection and ranging) at 32% and multispectral imaging cameras at 14%. Lidar (light detection and ranging) uses a pulsed laser to measure distances and generate precise, three-dimensional information.

Rather than UAVs, airplanes and helicopters are the most commonly used platforms for acquiring lidar data over broad areas. Topographic lidar uses a near-infrared laser to map the land, while bathymetric lidar uses water-penetrating green light to measure seafloor and riverbed elevations. Lidar is used to create more accurate maps, make digital elevation models, assist in emergency response operations, to name a few applications. GNSS and INS systems translate the collected sensor data into static points for GIS.

Multispectral and hyperspectral cameras capture images in infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) as well as traditional RGB (red, blue, green). The main difference between multispectral and hyperspectral is the number of bands and how narrow the bands are — from 3 to 10 bands for multispectral to hundreds for hyperspectral. Practically speaking, multispectral imagery can be used to map forested areas, while hyperspectral imagery can be used to map tree species within the forest.

Both types of cameras are used in agriculture, ecology, oil and gas, oceanography and atmospheric studies. They can map invasive species, monitor crop health, and help in mineral exploration. For building inspections, a multispectral camera can see water penetration, plumbing leaks, overloaded electrical circuits and malfunctioning mechanical systems.

Chart: GPS World

Chart: GPS World

Cloudy, Chance of Maps. Anywhere, anytime access to geospatial data is increasingly important, fueled in part by both the internet of things (IoT) and smart-city initiatives. Geospatial technology enables effective and integrated planning by providing real-time location data and analytics.

Most mapping providers have developed cloud software and storage, which helps organizations access data to meet their specific requirements. Along with the cloud, advances in mobile computing are enabling organizations to take GIS to the field, interacting with the information needed to view, capture, update and synchronize changes between the field and office. The field workforce can use maps to add validity to data, record observations, and respond to events.

GIS software is also assisting connected cars and autonomous vehicles, an area expected to grow significantly (see page 38). The mobile GIS software market is expected to reach a CAGR of 18% by 2024, according to Global Market Insights.

This article is tagged with and posted in From the Magazine, Mapping

About the Author:


Tracy Cozzens has served as managing editor of GPS World magazine since 2006, and also is editor of GPS World’s sister website, Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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