Dr Mike J Smith

Plymouth University

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GEO-12 roundup

Thu, 22 Mar 2012

I attend the GEO12 trade show yesterday..... it's hardly the most salubrious location (Holiday Inn in Elstree) but the space is reasonable and, well, its free and yes, you do get a free lunch!! More than that, it is doing a good job of combining the GIS and survey world.

Building Information Management (BIM) was the focus for the first session.... not the most exciting topic, but I can see this has the potential to transform building management from design, through build, delivery and maintenance. Key area to watch and there is plenty of money in the sector to make it work (and make it save money).

For me, the "fun" topics close to my interests were in the remote sensing. UAVs were a big focus at the show with both SeneseFly and Gatewing in attendance. Presentations were good from both although pizazz goes to SenseFly.... they went from packed to ready-to-launch with engine running **in the conference room** in 30 seconds!!! (I've blogged before on Gatewing). Some of the key aspects were:

  • total weight and payload. SenseFly total weight is under 500g to simplify licensing, Gatewing is 2kg with research looking at larger payloads
  • accuracy is an issue with both UAVs flying compact cameras. The Gatewing is 10MP but both resolution and camera quality limit accuracy. The ability to fly a DSLR would significantly improve imagery
  • the key point is software. Both offer orthphoto and DEM processing, but didn't really explain how they did it (one assumes SfM type processing, possibly involving open-source libraries). We are getting close to the stage where these are mature products - yes, payload and cost are issues, but expect these to drop dramatically over the coming years
  • licensing - really key issue. These come under CAA regulations and require licensing as unmanned aerial vehicles flown under line-of-sight. Apparantly this is 500m horizontally and 400ft vertically (not sure why Gatewing switched from metric to imperial!). They have an extended license allowing them to operate at upto 750m

Its horses for courses when it comes to aerial systems: my biggest complaint with UAVs is payload, licensing and cost. These demos do nothing to alleviate these problems particularly, but things are headed in the right direction.

The final company was Spheron who specialise in full 306 degree imaging using a high dynamic range camera. In short, an SLR will take images with a small dynamic range (read radiometric resolution), this is 8-bit or about 5-10 f-stops. The human eye can see 18-20 f-stops. The Spheron is 32-bit at upto 28 f-stops. This allows you to image things across all contrast levels that are simply not possible with traditional cameras. Applications?? Two main areas:

  • Computer rendering: place the camera at a location in a real photo and image the scene. Use the light information to accurate render a computer model in the scene. The results are stunning
  • Asset Management: image different locations allowing you to get full 360 degree HDR imagery of assets.
The camera can operate in stereo (vertical offset), but currently is limited to manual, single, point measurements. An automated process is under investigation.

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