Your behavior appears to be a little unusual. Please verify that you are not a bot.

Field Technology Conference: The forest and the fish

November 30, 2015  - By

PORTLAND, Ore. — Two weeks ago, I attended (and hosted) the Field Technology Conference here in Portland, Oregon. This is the fifth year of the conference. In years past, it’s had a forestry emphasis primary because the Western Forestry and Conservation Association has been a major partner in organizing it.

This year, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and Pacific Northwest Aquatic Monitoring Partnership joined the organizing committee. The result was a 50-percent increase in attendance and a more diverse audience.

Another newcomer to the conference was a Civil GPS Service Interface Committee (CGSIC) U.S. State and Local Government Subcommittee meeting, which was co-located with the Field Technology Conference, offering a direct connection between civil GPS users and U.S. government representatives who are involved in GPS.

The conference was a two-day event comprised of three technology tracks: a track for general field technology and two tracks for industry-specific (forestry and fisheries) subjects, hands-on technology demonstrations and a field trip. Although forestry and fisheries professionals were the featured user groups, nearly all of the subject matters — GPS, UAVs, smartphones, tablets, laser rangefinders, lidar, photogrammetry, and field data-collection software — is applicable for a wide range of natural resource users involved with GIS (geographic information systems) technology.

As one of the hosts of the conference, I started out moderating the general session with all of the attendees in one room. This year, my general session topics include geospatial awareness and growth, GPS/GNSS technology, mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and UAVs.

Something new I tried this year, which worked out really well, was using audience response “clickers.” These small handheld devices were given to each audience member and allowed them to answer multiple choice questions that I posed in my Powerpoint presentation. I’ve always been a fan of audience input, and started polling the audience during webinars I conducted many years ago. For this conference, I used an audience polling system from Turning Technologies. I’d like to share with you the questions I asked the audience and the responses that I received.

Question #1: Are you here?



Comment: This was a test question to see if the audience response system was working properly. I’m still not sure if the audience just had a great sense of humor or a technical problem. I think the former was true. ☺

Question #2: Have you attended this conference before?


Comment: This was great news that the conference is attracting new attendees. It’s an annual event held in November, so keep your eyes on it for next year!

Question #3: After a brief discussion about the availability of higher accuracy geospatial data (eg. GNSS, UAVs, etc.), I was curious about the level of accuracy the audience required in their typical tasks.

What geospatial data accuracy do your typical tasks require?

Microsoft PowerPoint - FTCGeneralPlenary2015 [Compatibility Mode

Comment: I wasn’t sure what to expect with this question, but since I’ve polled a fisheries audience before, I had a feeling accuracy requirements would vary, and they did. Previously, a fisheries audience had told me that they were satisfied with 5-meter accuracy.

Question #4: The last question leads to this one. I wondered if the audience accuracy requirement was driven by requirement or by availability.

Are you satisfied with the accuracy of the geospatial data you use?

Microsoft PowerPoint - FTCGeneralPlenary2015 [Compatibility Mode


Comment: The answer is clear that, generally speaking, the audience would use higher accuracy geospatial data if it was available.

Question #5: The next question was a pure technology one. In the day of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), I’ve been very interested in monitoring the trends in mobile devices. The question about operating systems is relevant because it determines which data collection software you can use. For example, if a specific data-collection software is written only for Windows, it will not run on an Android or Apple (iOS) device.

Which operating system do you use on your mobile device(s)?

Microsoft PowerPoint - FTCGeneralPlenary2015 [Compatibility Mode

Comment: These responses surprised me a bit. They certainly don’t match the global market share figures that I’ve read. Following are the latest mobile device operating system market share numbers reported by IDC and Statista.

Microsoft PowerPoint - FTCGeneralPlenary2015 [Compatibility Mode


Microsoft PowerPoint - FTCGeneralPlenary2015 [Compatibility Mode

Question #6: The next part of my presentation discussed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV, also known as UAS or drone) technology. UAVs were a significant part of the conference this year. We had many presentations and some static demonstrations on UAV technology. On this subject, I had several questions for the audience.

Do you currently use a UAS?

Microsoft PowerPoint - FTCGeneralPlenary2015 [Compatibility Mode

Comment: These answers were not surprising. Flying UAVs commercially in the U.S. requires a special permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). To date, the FAA has only issued about 2,000 such exemptions.

Question #7: Do you anticipate using a UAS?

Microsoft PowerPoint - FTCGeneralPlenary2015 [Compatibility Mode

Comment: These answers surprised me a bit. I had no idea the audience would be so interested in personally flying a UAV. This has me thinking about this the same way I think about GPS receivers — just another tool in the toolbox.

Question #8: How much are you willing to spend on a UAS?

Microsoft PowerPoint - FTCGeneralPlenary2015 [Compatibility Mode

Comment: These responses don’t surprise me, although I polled another audience at a different venue that was more engineering-oriented, and the answers were a bit different. The engineering-oriented audience was willing to spend more for a UAV.

Furthermore, in speaking with various attendees during the conference, there was quite a bit of interest in attaching different sensors to UAVs for various requirements. For example, lidar, multi-spectral and thermal (temperature) sensors were commonly mentioned as payloads they would like to see. The challenge is that the cost of a UAV rises sharply when these types of payloads are accommodated, and conflicts with the audience’s response about how much they are willing to pay for a UAV.


In next month’s column, I’ll post links to the papers presented at the Field Technology Conference as well as videos of papers presented by the CGSIC folks.

See you next month.

Follow me on Twitter at

Source: FTC

About the Author: Eric Gakstatter

Eric Gakstatter has been involved in the GPS/GNSS industry for more than 20 years. For 10 years, he held several product management positions in the GPS/GNSS industry, managing the development of several medium- and high-precision GNSS products along with associated data-collection and post-processing software. Since 2000, he's been a power user of GPS/GNSS technology as well as consulted with capital management companies; federal, state and local government agencies; and private companies on the application and/or development of GPS technology. Since 2006, he's been a contributor to GPS World magazine, serving as editor of the monthly Survey Scene newsletter until 2015, and as editor of Geospatial Solutions monthly newsletter for GPS World's sister site Geospatial Solutions, which focuses on GIS and geospatial technologies.

Comments are currently closed.