Welcome to Summit GIS and Mapping!
After a hiatus of a couple of years, Summit GIS and Mapping is back in action and ready to take on new mapping and GIS work. Study and family have been the focus of my time away, but I return to GIS consulting with a renewed vigour and enthusiasm for helping others to address their particular GIS needs. It’s good to be back!
Over the last few years their have been some interesting developments in the geospatial industry which I’ll endeavour to write about in more detail in the coming weeks and months. There are a couple of things that are of immediate interest that I’ll just touch on briefly.
Drone Evolution or should I say Revolution?
The rapidity with which drones/UAV technology has found it’s way into many aspects of our lives is noteworthy. Drone photo’s in real estate photography now seem almost obligatory, the new sport of drone racing is something unheard of 5 years ago, and of course the application of drones for aerial imaging and mapping space has advanced significantly. Seven years ago I helped a field officer who was experimenting with the use of a remote control model aircraft for aerial imaging. He had to learn to fly the RC aircraft first! He then had to design and build mounts for the camera payload (3 megapixel cameras), before any image capture could take place. Once he’d captured images, he came to me for help with learning how to georeference, rectify and mosaic the imagery that he’d captured. And all of this before any interpretation had taken place. With today’s off the shelf fixed/rotary wing drones, coupled with the numerous drone mapping software packages available, much of the hard work is already done. Add to that the ability of drones to not only fly themselves, but avoid collisions and return to their point of origin, and you have a very attractive proposition for rapid spatial data capture. I’ll try to research and write more about this in future.
Datums and map projections can be a source of real frustration in GIS. Indeed, in the days when spatial reference information wasn’t stored as part of a spatial dataset (eg. early shapefiles), a considerable amount of time could be spent trying to work our exactly which coordinate system was in use. In early 2000’s Australian cartographers and spatial analysts dealt with the transition to the Geocentric Datum of Australia 1994 (GDA94). This was at times a messy process, but ultimately put us in the position where the whole of Australia used the same datum (GDA94) as the basis for it’s coordinate systems, with the added advantage that GDA94 was for most uses identical to the WGS84 (World Geodetic System 1984) datum used by GPS satellites. Since 2000, the adoption of technologies that incorportate global satellite navigation systems (GNSS) has been significant! We find GNSS in our cars, our watches, our phones, our drones etc etc. So central is GNSS to many aspects of our lives, that the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping (www.icsm.gov.au) have decided that Australia’s datum needs to be modernised to meet the needs of current and future users. Enter GDA2020. GDA2020 will do a number of things. It brings our datum into closer alignment with the globally standardised International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF) and importantly allows for the modelling and adjustment of coordinates over time to account for continental drift (Australia moves northwards by about 70mm per year. See article on The Conversation). Additionally, we need a datum that will allow our devices to work with seamlessly with GNSS systems other than GPS such as Galileo (Europe), GLONASS (Russia), Beidou (China), QZSS (Japan) and IRNSS (India). With these systems in play, ICSM is suggesting that in the not too distant future we can expect to have access to consumer grade GNSS devices capable of providing 50cm accuracy without any augmentation!
So what does this mean for the average GIS user? Full implementation of GDA2020 is a few years away, but with the extent to which GNSS now pervades our daily lives, implementation is likely to be a significant and complex undertaking. My thoughts… don’t panic, but certainly be aware that this change is about to take place.