UAV and GIS—An Emerging Dynamic Duo

from ArcUser Spring 2014

A conversation with Devon Humphrey of Waypoint Mapping

Devon Humphrey has worked on emerging technologies in GIS for the past three decades. When he became GIS manager for Lee County Appraisal District in Texas in 1991, he was one of the first to use GPS to georeference the county’s aerial photo archive, which greatly improved the county’s parcel management.

After working at Texas General Land Office on its oil spill prevention and response GIS, he joined Esri as a technical marketing representative while also teaching GIS for emergency response at Texas A&M University. Later, as a regional technical manager for Pictometry International Corp., he evangelized to ArcGIS users about the benefits of oblique aerial imagery technology.

During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Humphrey served as the geographic information officer (GIO) at the Louisiana Incident Command Post, designing and deploying GIS and imagery solutions at a time when real-time visual intelligence sources were scarce.

Soon after the incident, Humphrey refocused his GIS consulting business, Waypoint Mapping, to provide a common operating picture for critical infrastructure organizations within the energy and utility industries.

Convinced of the revolutionary potential of imagery capture by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as a data source for GIS users, Humphrey created a dedicated UAV division at Waypoint Mapping in 2012 called Flightline Geographics.

In this interview, Humphrey discusses the use of UAVs for GIS data capture with Esri writer Matthew DeMeritt.

A 3D point cloud depicting a coastal area. Similar to lidar, point clouds provide 3D information that can be combined with the air photos for analysis and visualization.

A 3D point cloud depicting a coastal area. Similar to lidar, point clouds provide 3D information that can be combined with the air photos for analysis and visualization.

You recently started Flightline Geographics as the aerial division of Waypoint Mapping. When did your interest in UAV mapping begin?

GIS users have always craved high-quality, near real-time imagery. Over the years, expectations for resolution and fast delivery have been significantly raised. Much of our work at Waypoint involves emergency management. Real-time visual intelligence is absolutely critical to complete the common operational picture. Short of having an on-call manned air fleet, UAVs offer the unique ability for users to capture their own data, on their own time frame.

Waypoint started experimenting with unmanned imagery in 2007. Since then, it’s exploded as battery and optical technologies have evolved, allowing for larger areas to be captured at higher resolutions.

Autonomous flight and advanced optics have been used in the military for years. Is that where the two technologies began to naturally converge?

Yes, the military has been working with a combination of the two technologies for a couple of decades now. But as far as everyday use cases, it has a lot to do with the technical components inside, such as the autopilot and the processing software that are used to create orthomosaics and 3D point clouds for GIS. Once these technologies matured and became more affordable, their combination with an airframe was almost trivial.

The combination was just beginning to lead to breakthroughs just before 9/11 [terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001] happened, and then the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] understandably prohibited unchecked use of UAV in the interest of national security. That hampered UAV’s development and proliferation—at least here in the US. Other parts of the world excelled technologically and commercially at this time, as a result.

The benefits of UAV capture are higher-quality imagery and temporality. Can you expand on that and the other benefits you see in this technology?

Due to the unique flight characteristics of UAVs, the imagery is sharper and offers some unique advantages. Drones fly very low compared to manned aircraft—400 feet is a typical altitude. This means that the camera captures high ground resolution on the order of two to five centimeters. In addition, because there is a large amount of overlap in the imagery, digital photogrammetric processing results in 3D point clouds of similar resolution. Turnaround time is a few hours, instead of days, weeks, or months in the case of traditional delivery times. The user also controls the process rather than working with an outside vendor or being stuck using “day-old donuts,” generic imagery that doesn’t meet the temporal requirements.

UAV capturing vineyard imagery for analysis.

UAV capturing vineyard imagery for analysis.

What are some of the most recent developments with regard to FAA regulation?

The US Congress has seen the benefits of UAVs for professional use and has ordered the FAA to produce the “rules of the skies” for incorporation into the National Airspace. Naturally, the FAA is concerned with safety first, but it is really taking its time on this. Collision avoidance is a concern, as is impact with objects on the ground. But most of the UAVs that would be used for mapping are small, lightweight airframes that fly far below the normal air traffic.

As we see with Amazon recently divulging its plans to deliver merchandise via drones, the private sector will force the issue. I predict that if the FAA does not accelerate the rule-making process, the commercial and consumer market will simply fly without permission. It is already happening. While that is not the right answer, I do think this prospect will influence the pace of the process and, hopefully, speed things up.

What is the FAA doing now?

The FAA has selected a set of university-based test sites to work on issues of collision avoidance and other issues. One of them is at Texas A&M University. Research will go on for a year or more. In the meantime, more and more drones are being sold through places like, not necessarily for mapping, but for hobbyists. They are everywhere. If you go to Town Lake in Austin, Texas, on a nice weekend afternoon or evening, you will see dozens of them buzzing around. They are the modern-day equivalent of kites. Of course, there are privacy issues to consider, but the FAA does not deal with privacy—just safety.

At a recent UAV conference in California, an FAA official almost opened the skies unknowingly. He stated in response to a question, that “If a farmer wants to get a UAV and fly his crops, we don’t care.” While I don’t think that is the official position, it demonstrates the tide of influence the commercial market is generating. Frankly, I don’t think there is much they could do to stop it.

Everyone wants safe skies. But the uses and demand for UAV-collected data for GIS is becoming overwhelming. The congress will continue to press for the FAA to get on with the rule making. If it involves taking an exam, obtaining a license, or registration of airframes, those are all possibilities. But let’s get on with it.

The Hawkeye UAV lands by parachute, a far safer method of making an emergency landing than a belly landing.

The Hawkeye UAV lands by parachute, a far safer method of making an emergency landing than a belly landing.

What industries are using the technology the most today?

The range is incredible. As with GIS, almost any use case can benefit from higher-resolution, self-service imagery and 3D point cloud data. As I mentioned, here in the US we are limited. In other parts of the world, the technology is booming. But we are doing work in the US with federal, state, and university partners. Those organizations can apply for FAA Certificates of Authorization to fly a given model of UAV in a very specific geographic location. We have done agricultural projects (vineyards) and wildfire research projects. We also requested UAV use on the Gulf oil disaster, recent wildfires, and flooding incidents, but to date, the FAA has not approved UAV use for these events. The typical response has been that, “This could be done with a manned aircraft, so no.”

Agriculture is poised to be the single largest beneficiary of the combination of UAV and GIS. Farmers are already purchasing their own UAVs and inspecting their fields.

What are some of the visualization benefits of UAV in a GIS?

[One is] Full Motion Video [FMV]! The military has developed a technology that lines up the video with a digital map through image stabilization and georeferencing. We have dozens of uses for it in ArcGIS—it’s completely integrated into the ArcGIS toolset.

Currently, we are using FMV to monitor test fires for wildfire research. Another recent project involves pipeline monitoring. The UAV flies along the pipeline and captures FMV, which, since it is georeferenced, can be used to heads-up digitize features of interest directly from the video frame. This can include encroachments, leaks, erosion, etc. It is much easier to watch a video in the comfort of your office and capture features of interest than to try to do the same thing in a plane or helicopter.

Describe the current UAV market and where you think it’s headed.

The current market is overseas. There is a limited market in the US within government and university research. Places like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa, China, and other locations, have already adopted the tool, and it is following the adoption curve of GPS in the 1990s. In other words, explosive growth.

Again, we are lagging behind on this in the US. Within the next five years, every survey company and many GIS organizations will own and operate small UAVs for mapping. It is a no-brainer. And it’s fun, if done safely.

What’s on the horizon for Flightline Geographics?

We are continuing to work with clients that can use UAVs—government, universities, and overseas. We are also not totally dismissing the use of manned aircraft. UAVs have flight durations ranging from 30 minutes to several hours, so sometimes a manned aircraft is needed for larger projects, such as flying a 1,000-mile pipeline in a day.

We are also working to support the viticulture industry in Texas. Vineyards can use UAV technology to perform early detection of pests and view overall vegetative health. UAV remote-sensing analysis can highlight trouble spots before they can be seen with the naked eye. Vegetative density can also be seen in the 3D point clouds at high resolution.

We are working with Hawkeye UAV from New Zealand to conduct flight demonstrations and training, so that when the rules allow, GIS users can be ready to integrate UAVs into their geospatial toolkits. Some GIS organizations may not feel comfortable launching a UAV that costs somewhere between $10,000–$100,000 with an expensive camera into the sky for a data collection mission. In those cases, we offer capture services. Many users will choose this option. Imagine explaining to the boss that you crashed his $100,000 bird and camera . . . It’s something to consider.

For more information on UAV paired with GIS, visit or e-mail Devon Humphrey

Skybox: Google Maps goes real-time – but would you want a spy in the sky staring into your letter box?

James Vincent at  12 June 2014, via

When planning a road trip or buying a new house, it has become routine to scope out the area on Google Maps.

But what if the images you found weren’t blurry, dated snapshots – but live and crystal clear? Imagine cruising down the motorway, looking for traffic jams 50 miles ahead or scoping out your first born’s university digs, noting that the pub across the road attracts a big outdoors crowd after 10 (‘better pack the earplugs’).

This may sound like CIA-level surveillance, but it may one day be the future of  Google Maps –all thanks to the quiet acquisition of a start-up named Skybox Imaging earlier this month.

Founded in 2009, Skybox launched its first satellite into orbit in 2013. In December it beamed back to Earth the first commercial HD video shot from space. For an encore, Skybox’s engineers sent their fridge-sized satellite to float above Kiev, watching in real time as battle lines between police and protesters shifted back and forth.


An image showing Center Pivot Irrigation in Saudi Arabia captured by Skybox’s satellites. Image credit: Skybox ImagingTo give an idea of how impressive this is, it’s worth remembering that even in the early 70s the US military was using one-shot imaging satellites that took their pictures and then ejected the blurry, black and white film straight out of orbit to be caught by airplanes circling below like anxious firemen.

If these satellites were the equivalent of disposable cameras then SkyBox’s craft are like roving CCTV. They’re cheap, always-on space craft and by 2016 the company plans to operate a constellation of 24 – all capable of sending back video and stills of anywhere on Earth, to anywhere on Earth.

For the casual observer it might seem that this sort of capability is nothing new. Anyone who has played around on current versions of Google Earth will have flicked back the scroll wheel on their mouse, casually zooming out all the way to watch the Earth spinning through space, as real-time as we’d ever need or want for something so apparently unchanging. But distance erases detail and the trip back down to the surface of Google Earth takes users through a patchwork of old and new imagery, stitched together from a variety of sources.

And although these pictures may seem detailed enough to us, they’re actually constrained by limits set by the US government. At least, they were until this month. Just one week after Google announced they’d purchased SkyBox, the US Department of Commerce lifted restrictions on high resolution, allowing commercial satellites to trade in what’s been called “manholes and mailboxes” imagery.

“If you imagine a satellite sat above your office then the old resolution could probably make out your desk. The new imagery – where each pixel measures around 31cm – can now make out what’s on your desk,” explains Clive Evans, lead satellite imagery investigator with LGC Forensics.

“When you reach this sort of frequency you can begin to add in what we call ‘pattern of life’ analysis. This means looking at activity in terms of movement – not just identification.”

When – and indeed whether – Google will make such images available to the public on Google Maps is unclear. In the short term, the real value is going to be for corporations.

In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Skybox co-founder Dan Berkenstock revealed that the company was currently watching the movements of trucks in and out of factories operated by Foxconn – a major Apple contractor – because any increase in activity is evidence that the Californian company is about to ship a new iPhone.

“We think we are going fundamentally to change humanity’s understanding of the economic landscape on a daily basis,” said Mr Berkenstock.

Skybox says “Use our algorithms or bring your own, use our data or combine our data with yours.” Image credit: Skybox Imaging

For once, this sort of claim (familiar in the world of tech boosterism) is more than hyperbole. With abundant satellite imagery, whole new realms of data analysis are opened up. Investors will be able to predict the price of food by studying a country’s farmland; they can gauge a gold mine’s productivity by sizing up its slag heaps. One story that’s common in the Skybox mythos is of an analyst at UBS who was able to predict Walmart’s quarterly earnings in 2010 by simply watching the store’s parking lots and calculating the volume of customers.

“There’s an emerging industry here – although Google’s business model is a mystery,” said Marc Dautlich, a lawyer specialising in technology and data protection. “They could sell the images themselves or sell value-added services.”

Google has so far said that Skybox’s satellites will be primarily used to keep its maps up-to-date, but that they’ll also be exploring how to deploy the technology alongside their other aerospace ventures, including Project Loon (using weather balloons to deliver internet connections in remote locations) and Titan Aerospace (which builds high-altitude, solar-powered drones that can stay aloft for years).

There’s no doubt that Google will continue with these benevolent, public-friendly ventures, but the proven ability of Skybox’s satellites to measure anything from the fullness of oil containers in Saudi Arabia to the volume of air traffic in Beijing airport dovetails far too neatly with the company’s mission-statement: “Organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

From the first time Google indexed the nascent world wide web in 1998 to the launch of Google Earth in 2005, the search giant has understood that in order to find information you need a good map. With the purchase of Skybox, Google is set to have the best maps the world has ever seen.

Apocalyptic Google Map image of Lac-Megantic ‘disgusting  23 June 2014

Google satellite image view of Lac Megantic, Que. (Google)
Google satellite image view of Lac Megantic, Que. (Google)

MONTREAL — Residents of Lac-Megantic are upset after discovering that a Google satellite map of the town shows the aftermath of last summer’s deadly train derailment and explosion.

“It’s disgusting and it makes no sense,” said Emilie Bedard, a co-ordinator at Lac-Megantic’s tourism bureau.

Typing in “Lac-Megantic” into Google Maps shows an apocalyptic image with the centre of town resembling a black hole, rail cars burned to a crisp and strewn like matchsticks, and Lac-Megantic’s downtown buildings completely destroyed.

“The scene only looked like this for the two weeks following the accident,” said Ghislain Bolduc, the provincial MNA for the Megantic riding.

Bolduc told QMI Agency that the photo reeks of “sensationalism.”

“Is there a way to get to get Google to change it?” wondered Audrey Roussin, an agent in the Lac-Megantic tourism office.

“Yes, we had a horrible tragedy occur here, but we’re trying to build something positive.”

QMI Agency repeatedly tried to contact Google over the last several days, but have not had a response.


National Geographic Channel Embarks on a Nationwide Search for the Next Generation of Explorers with Expedition Granted


Winner Will Be Chosen by the Public and Receive $50,000 to Fund Their Dream Expedition; Contest Now Open at

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2014 — (PRNewswire) — Move over, Indiana Jones. It’s a new day in exploration. National Geographic Channel (NGC) today announced Expedition Granted, a socially fueled competition to find the next generation of explorers and to grant one person’s dream expedition for $50,000. The nationwide competition was developed in partnership with National Geographic Society, 21st Century FOX and sponsors the Jeep brand and Dos Equis.

Expedition Granted aims to democratize the very notion of exploration and show that in the 21st century, explorers can come from all backgrounds and disciplines ranging from art and music to food, science and technology. The only requirement is that one has unbridled curiosity and is willing — with a little financial help — to take the steps to make their dream project happen.

“We want to help redefine the concept of exploration — anyone with a big idea and passion to make it come to life can be an explorer,” said NGC CEOCourteney Monroe. “This opportunity is for all of those pushing boundaries and forging new paths — a musician who is changing how music is composed using only a smartphone, an engineer developing robotics to aid people with impaired mobility, or a chef who is pushing the boundaries of food preparation — there is no limit to what we want to see.”

Brain Games host Jason Silva (@JasonSilva), National Geographic Channel’s voice of redefining exploration and curiosity through his hit series, will be introducing the contest to fans and working with National Geographic and their team to determine the finalists.

To enter, contestants must submit a video up to two minutes in length and a Tweetable elevator pitch at outlining what their passion project is and why they deserve to have it granted. Submissions will be accepted until August 31, 2014 (entrants must be 21 years or older). Once an entry is submitted, it will be displayed on the main site where fans can show support for the project they’d most like to see granted by liking and sharing on social media.

When the submission period closes, National Geographic Channel, together with its partners and advisors, will choose up to 10 finalists to be voted on by the public. Finalists will be selected based on their project’s originality, ability to make an impact on the local and/or global community and viability. A winner will be announced later this fall and, in addition to the $50,000 prize, will be highlighted on-air on NGC.

Contestants will be inspired and encouraged along the way by a council of notable experts across a wide range of specialties: art, food, social sciences, technology, filmmaking, journalism, engineering, the environment and more. The advisors include:

  • Casey Neistat, online filmmaker; writer, director, editor and star of the series “The Neistat Brothers” on HBO; winner of the John CassavetesAward at the 2012 Independent Spirit Awards for producing the film “Daddy Long Legs.” @CaseyNeistat
  • Wylie Dufresne, celebrated chef; winner of “Best Chef New York” 2013; proponent of modernist cuisine to incorporate science and new techniques in the preparation and presentation of food. @wyliedufresne
  • Bertrand Piccard, psychiatrist, aeronaut and lecturer; chairman of the Winds of Hope charitable foundation; United Nations goodwill ambassador; made the first ever nonstop around-the-world balloon flight. @bertrandpiccard
  • Ainissa G. Ramirez, Ph.D., author and science evangelist; passionate about getting the general public excited about science. @ainissaramirez
  • Kenzo Digital, director and artist; dedicated to synthesizing new narrative forms by unifying traditional storytelling with groundbreaking technology; best known for his work with Beyonce. @kenzodigital
  • Thomas Dolby, musician and producer; best known for “She Blinded Me with Science” and “Hyperactive!”; his keyboard and studio production work garnered numerous awards and five Grammy nominations. @ThomasDolby
  • Thayer Walker, journalist and explorer; partner in Summit, an organization addressing global issues; led efforts to establish a marine protected area in the Bahamas. @thayerwalker
  • Marina Gorbis, futurist and social scientist; executive director to the Institute for the Future; explores how technology and globalism are fundamentally transforming our social structures. @iftf
  • Raghava KK, multidisciplinary artist and entrepreneur; National Geographic Emerging Explorer and multiple-time TED speaker; named by CNN as one of the 10 most remarkable people in 2010. @raghavakk
  • Gregg Treinish, avid outdoorsman; founder of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation; National Geographic Emerging Explorer; named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2008. @AdventurScience

For more information, visit and follow us on social media at #expeditiongranted.

About National Geographic Channel
Based at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Channels US are a joint venture between National Geographic and Fox Networks. The Channels contribute to the National Geographic Society’s commitment to exploration, conservation and education with smart, innovative programming and profits that directly support its mission. Launched in January 2001, National Geographic Channel (NGC) celebrated its fifth anniversary with the debut of NGC HD. In 2010, the wildlife and natural history cable channel Nat Geo WILD was launched, and in 2011, the Spanish-language network Nat Geo Mundo was unveiled. The Channels have carriage with all of the nation’s major cable, telco and satellite television providers, with NGC currently available in over 85 million U.S. homes. Globally, National Geographic Channel is available in more than 440 million homes in 171 countries and 45 languages. For more information, visit

About 21st Century Fox

21st Century Fox is the world’s premier portfolio of cable, broadcast, film, pay TV and satellite assets spanning six continents across the globe. Reaching more than 1.5 billion subscribers in approximately 50 local languages every day, 21st Century Fox is home to a global portfolio of cable and broadcasting networks and properties, including FOX, FX, FXX, FXM, FS1, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, FOX Sports, Fox Sports Network, National Geographic Channels, MundoFox, STAR India, 28 local television stations in the U.S. and more than 300 channels that comprise Fox International Channels; film studio Twentieth Century Fox Film; and television production studios Twentieth Century Fox Television and Shine Group. The Company also provides premium content to millions of subscribers through its pay-television services in Europeand Asia, including Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia and its equity interests in BSkyB and Tata Sky. For more information about 21st Century Fox, please

About National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the member-supported Society’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. Through its online community, members can get closer to explorers and photographers, connect with other members around the world and help make a difference. National Geographic reflects the world through its magazines, television programs, films, books, DVDs, radio, maps, exhibitions, live events, school publishing programs, travel expeditions, interactive media and merchandise. National Geographic magazine, the Society’s official journal, published in English and 39 local-language editions, is read by more than 60 million people each month. The National Geographic Channel reaches 440 million households in 171 countries in 48 languages. National Geographic’s digital media receive around 27 million visitors a month. National Geographic has funded more than 11,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information,


from; Kelly Ng, 20 June 2014

A water agency in the Australian state of Tasmania has used automatic meter reading (AMR) technology to improve water management and meter reading. Esri’s GIS solution was used to manage the state-wide installation.

GIS has played an important role in the current phase of the project which involved upgrading a total of 13,000 meters which do not meet minimum standards across three municipalities, said Luke Paine, Spatial Information System Administrator at TasWater.

“Field technicians armed with hand-held devices visited each home individually to collect information and photographs to determine where the meters were situated and if there were any particular accessibility issues,” Paine said.

“By using GIS technology we were able to immediately upload and validate that information within our central databases, as well as distribute work orders and monitor the performance of external contractors.”

“Staff can quickly view the interactive map to visualise which individual properties had been upgraded and provide up-to-the-minute reports on the entire project’s progress to internal and community stakeholders. Previously, this would have required a chain of phone calls to isolate where the process was at, so there have been significant improvements from a customer service perspective,” Paine said.

The user-friendly map-based interface was critical to providing a system which personnel across TasWater could use with little or no training. “Our call centre staff use the mapping system daily when responding to customer queries and requests about meter installation,” he added.

GIS technology has been critical to every stage of the project – from pre-installation, data collection, to the generation of a variety of reports for both internal and external stakeholders. It provided TasWater with the means of distributing that information out to the entire organisation, so employees can instantly visualise at what stage the process is and what work remains to be done, he added.

The roll-out is part of a state initiative to save up to 8,700 million litres of water each year – equivalent to the annual average water consumption of approximately 43,500 homes in the State.

TasWater provides drinking water, sewerage and trade waste services for around 200,000 homes and businesses across the Australian state of Tasmania.


Better Infectious Rickettsioses Prevention in Taiwan with SuperGIS Desktop



The professional GIS desktop software, SuperGIS Desktop, supports Dr. Chung-Hsu Lai, I-Shou University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in the research of human spotted fever group rickettsioses, SFGR, to provide geographical relations of the infectious diseases in disease control and future prevention.

SFGR is one of rickettsial diseases biogroups, it’s found in different geographical environments worldwide. The emerging diseases have been neglected by publics, especially in developing countries like Taiwan. There aren’t many researches related to human SFGR and other rickettsioses, such as Q fever, scrub typhus and murine typhus. The geospatial relations of the diseases have been also ignored for a long time.

To better understand the spread of the diseases, Dr. Lai utilizes SuperGIS Desktop for visualizing the spatial distribution of different diseases. With the maps, readers can easily see the infector locations of each disease, and then overlay the terrain layer to realize the relation between distribution and terrains. For example, Q fever, murine typhus, and leptospirosis cases are spread on plains, but scrub typhus are more in mountain areas.

Furthermore, the Doctor applies GIS software to see the difference not only spatial distribution, but also in different times to watch the effects of prevention and control results. For advanced uses, SuperGIS Desktop Extensions, Geospatial Analyst and Geospatial Statistical Analyst can also provide the researcher accurate analysis as research proof.


DigitalGlobe Launches Crowdsourcing Campaign to Help Save Hawaii’s Native Forests

In partnership with The Nature Conservancy, DigitalGlobe activated its Tomnod crowdsourcing platform to help preserve Hawaii’s remaining native forests, the areas that remain mostly untouched by civilization. Invasive weeds, such as the Australian Tree Fern and African Tulip Tree, are aggressively spreading throughout Hawaii’s high-elevation rainforests. In fact, invasive species have contributed to the destruction of more than 50 percent of Hawaii’s native forests, according to The Nature Conservancy. DigitalGlobe has a unique ability to monitor change around the world, and this campaign will allow us to do just that.

Starting with the island of Kauai, we want to pinpoint the location of some of the worst invasive weeds, but we need your help! If you would like to volunteer your time to support this mission, please visit DigitalGlobe’s Tomnod platform to join other eco-volunteers in combing through aerial images of Kauai to tag two different species of invasive weeds, specifically: Australian Tree Fern, Partial Australian Tree Fern and African Tulip Tree.

This project uses Conservancy-provided high resolution aerial photography of Kauai’s remote rainforests. By pinpointing the location of each weed, the Conservancy will be able to focus its efforts on each one, and identify the leading edge of the weeds’ spread. Targeting weeds in the regions of the forest where they are most prevalent  will slow further spread and push back that leading edge, protecting the 27 percent of native forest that remains on Kauai. Hawaii as a state stretches over more than 16,000 square kilometers, and the island of Kauai is more than 1,400 square kilometers, so the crowd can play a significant role in targeting these weeds before they spread any further. Although this project focuses on just 3,000 acres, if it is successful, the Conservancy has thousands more acres — and images — to analyze.


ASPRS is actively seeking Highlight Articles for publication in PE&RS.

Highlight Articles are meant to extend the impact of PE&RS to an even broader range of readers. These articles are semi-technical or non-technical. Each article should address topics of broader interests with greater impact to the geospatial community, and accommodate the interests of readers with a diverse level of geospatial knowledge. Highlight Articles may: review recent or historical developments in technology, industry or academia; discuss new or unusual approaches to common problems; address topics of common concerns or interests.

ASPRS is interested in articles of varied topics but are most interested in articles on:

o   Use of UAS for mapping purposes

o   Humanitarian activities/relief efforts facilitated by imaging and geospatial technologies

o   Sports applications of photogrammetry

o   Microsatellite platforms

o   Remote sensing projects by international teams

o   Imaging and geospatial information programs/initiatives in K-12 education

o   Machine vision and artificial intelligence applied to imagery

o   Remote sensing applications in the following industries; beer, wine, truffles

o   Intelligent transportation systems facilitated by photogrammetry, remote sensing, imaging, and geospatial technologies

o   Cybersecurity related to geospatial information
Highlight Articles can not be vendor-specific articles and product names are not mentioned in the body of the article but are allowed in the author credit line at the end of the article.

Please note: these are NOT to be peer-reviewed articles and therefore are not to contain lengthy lists of references or complex equations. High quality photos and graphics are encouraged.

For more information, contact:

Rae Kelley, Assistant Director-Publications at

MapLight tracks the influence of money in politics via maps

Susan Smith in, 23 June 2014

For those who need to know the geographic origin of contributions to legislators by state and by companies and other political contribution information, MapLight, a nonpartisan research organization that tracks the influence of money in politics, recently announced the launch of an extensive mapping project. This project examines the following (from the press release): geographic origin of contributions to legislators by state; contributions from companies to legislators by state; and roll call votes by state and district on key bills in Congress.

This project will shed light on how money from outside sources influences local political campaigns and also will show from what geographic locations money is contributed to key legislative initiatives.

These are some of the maps that MapLight has developed so far:

MapLight uses the latest available data from the Federal Election Commission as of April 14, 2014 to analyze campaign contributions in each of the above cases for a given election cycle of period of time.

According to their website,

MapLight connects money and votes. “We bring together, in one website, the money given to politicians with each politician’s votes.

We provide dataresearch services, and online tools that work together to make patterns of money and influence more transparent. Connections between campaign contributions, interest groups and votes that would have required days or weeks of manual research are now available at the click of a mouse.

We currently track money and votes for the U.S. Congress and the California and Wisconsinstate legislatures. You can stay up-to-date on our work via e-mailFacebook, or Twitter.”

Airbus Defence and Space launches Radar Constellation Challenge with HisdeSAT


Call for innovative radar project submissions as part of the Earth monitoring Copernicus Masters Competition

June 24, 2014 — Airbus Defence and Space, in partnership with HisdeSAT, has announced a Radar Constellation Challenge, in order to encourage the development of innovative application ideas using radar satellite imagery. The initiative is part of the Earth monitoring Copernicus Masters Competition, which aims to support the development of market-oriented applications based on Earth observation data.

The focus of the challenge is the creative utilization of high-resolution SAR (synthetic aperture radar) data specifically from the upcoming TerraSAR-X / TanDEM-X and PAZ constellation.

Starting in late 2014, the Spanish PAZ satellite (built by Airbus Defence and Space, and owned and operated by HisdeSAT) will join the twin radar satellites TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X in the same orbital plane. In combination with the identical imaging modes offered by all three satellites, this concept will make possible leveraging the potential of a satellite constellation with high revisit rates, increased coverage, improved service.

However, data integration from other sources – including satellite imagery from other commercial or public sensors – will also be considered. Airbus Defence and Space and HisdeSAT are in particular calling for creative ideas addressing maritime monitoring, security, or change detection applications.

Submissions will, among other factors, be evaluated for their innovation, as well as their potential customer and economic benefits. Their ability to integrate SAR satellite data will be taken into consideration, as will their relevance to the Copernicus programme. Competition participants – whether students, entrepreneurs, developers, or SMEs – are invited to submit their innovative approaches until 13 July 2014 through the Copernicus Masters website:

The annual Copernicus Masters competition has since 2011 been awarding prizes to innovative solutions for business and society based on Earth observation data. The competition takes place within the framework of the European Copernicus programme (formerly known as ‘GMES’ – Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), designed to create a modern, capable infrastructure for Earth observation and geo-information services.