MIT and the city of Amsterdam Team up on Autonomous Boats

Roboat-Sensable-City-3Most of the news on autonomous vehicles centers around the world of vehicles designed for roads.  But what if your city or town is surrounded by water – what if the avenue to your home or business is not a road, but a canal?

With global technological movement flowing towards self driving vehicles, it was only a matter of time before a metropolis such as Amsterdam started thinking about the future of autonomous vehicles in terms of their city landscape.  And that means boats.

Enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  They are pairing up with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute) to begin the world’s first large scale research project on autonomous floating vessels for cities, cleverly called Roboat.  This is a five year initiative including researchers from MIT, Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University and Research.

The budget?  25 million euros.  The first prototypes? AMS says they’ll be in the water in 2017.

I think it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing much more news about this project and any others of its scale focusing on autonomous vehicles.

What’s next?  Autonomous ice cream trucks?  I’ll have mint chocolate chip, please.

Read more on the project at AMS.

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The Future of Mining

Mine Planning Page Banner Flat Inset 1000x250Looks like the future of mining is now…

How valuable would it be for mining companies to organize, analyze, and present all of their data in one all encompassing system?

Trimble’s connected mine software provides a platform to store data on just about everything that contributes to the business of mining. From massive remote sensing data sets to blast data to geochemistry to extraction and processing equipment, the software bills it self as a one stop shop.

I can see this being used by consultants and mining companies to make high level decisions on capital expenditures, all the way down to the day to day decisions on the “nuts and bolts” of the operation.

One of the biggest challenges in our industry is displaying survey data and results in a clear and meaningful way that is easy for end-users to understand. This software could be the answer that the mining industry has been looking for.

The kicker for me is the 3D-Virtual Reality-Boardroom Table-Quarry Map… How cool is that!?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Leica Announces HDS University

leicaIf you have not been able to attend HxGN Live to take advantage of the  training classes then this may be the answer.

Leica Geosystems has announced the launch of HDS University, a new hands-on educational opportunity for professionals looking to expand their skillset in the growing field of laser scanning/high-definition surveying (HDS). During a three-day session Oct. 25 through 27, HDS University will bring courses in laser scanning hardware and software to professionals at the Leica Geosystems Americas region headquarters near Atlanta.

A quick review of the listing shows a wide variety of topics and areas of interest. The cost is $395 per course.

In partnership with the University of Arkansas, Leica Geosystems is offering continuing education unit (CEU) credits on most HDS University classes. A limited number of one-on-one consulting sessions with Leica HDS experts are also available on Oct. 24 and 28 for a nominal additional fee.

An early registration discount of 20% is available to those who sign up for their courses by September 30.


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Full Waveform Research

forestIt seems that the promise of full waveform technology has not yet been realized. This team of researchers at the University of Heidelberg in Germany note that for the forestry application at least “an extensive overview, categorization and comparison of features from full-waveform airborne laser scanning and how they relate to specific tree species are still missing.”

To address this they provide a review that  “identifies frequently used full-waveform airborne laser scanning-based point cloud and waveform features for tree species classification and compare the applied features and their characteristics for specific tree species detection. Limiting and influencing factors on feature characteristics and tree classification are discussed with respect to vegetation structure, data acquisition and processing.”

Have you used full waveform?


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Autonomous Vehicles – Not Even Close

cmuThis is an excellent article on the background of the relationship between Uber and Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics lab, NREC. The original plan was for Uber and CMU to form a partnership to work on autonomous vehicles. Instead Uber hired 40 of the lab’s 100 scientists, as well as the director. They set up an office about a mile from NREC.

Interesting as that may be, the issue that I wanted to focus on is the following response from Herman Herman, the Lab Director when asked about the status of autonomous vehicle research, “With autonomous cars, you see these videos from Google and Uber showing a car driving around, but people have not taken it past 80 percent. It’s one of those problems where it’s easy to get to the first 80 percent, but it’s incredibly difficult to solve the last 20 percent. If you have a good GPS, nicely marked roads like in California, and nice weather without snow or rain, it’s actually not that hard. But guess what? To solve the real problem, for you or me to buy a car that can drive autonomously from point A to point B—it’s not even close. There are fundamental problems that need to be solved.”

I guess you could say it is the old 80/20 rule, perhaps in reverse.

Thanks to Bill Gutelius at Qntfi for the heads up.

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Scanse Completes Sweep Pilot Run

scanseScanse recently announced that they have completed a pilot run of their low cost, 2D Sweep lidar sensor, finalized the mechanical dimensions and production is now underway. With a range of 40 meters and the ability to operate outdoors, not to mention the $250 price tag it is going to be interesting to see what the professional community does with this disruptive technology.

One of the co-founders explains the innovation behind the Sweep –

“Sweep is based on a new time of flight ranging method, which involves sending out laser pulses that are made up of a series of micro pulses. These micro pulses act as a kind of light based checksum, which allows the sensor to more easily correlate returning light to the known pattern, and achieve a phase difference measurement. This method is much different than traditional LIDAR, which uses a train of identical pulses to measure the phase difference between outgoing and incoming light.

The traditional method requires the pulses to be much brighter than ambient light, otherwise it gets drowned in noise. This requires high power lasers and finely tuned detectors. The new method we are using allows the sensor to use lower power components, which contributes to its low cost. This also gives it the ability to sense surfaces up to 40 meters away, even in noisy sunlit environments. A final added benefit comes from the fact that each pulse packet is unique, which means the sensor can reject multi-bounce returns (as they would come out of order), as well as light from adjacent sensors.”

Any ideas?


Posted in Business Development, Consumer, Sensors | Leave a comment

Introduction to Lidar – Online Training

noaaNOAA’s Office of Coastal Management Digital Coast is offering a free, online training course entitled, “Introduction to Lidar.” It’s an 80 minute tutorial including the following  topics:

  • Define lidar
  • Select types of elevation data for specific coastal applications
  • Describe how lidar data are collected
  • Identify the characteristics of lidar data
  • Distinguish between lidar data products
  • Recognize aspects of data quality that impact data usability
  • Locate lidar data sources and additional information resources

This self-paced, online training introduces several fundamental concepts of lidar and demonstrates how high-accuracy lidar-derived elevation data support natural resource and emergency management applications in the coastal zone. The material provides geospatial analysts with the information needed to understand the characteristics of lidar that have direct impacts on mapping and spatial analysis projects. A demonstration is included to show how lidar data can be downloaded from NOAA’s Digital Coast.

Posted in airborne LiDAR, Education, Environmental, Government, training | 5 Comments

USIBD Cornerstone Report Announced

usiThe U.S. Institute of Building Documentation (USIBD) announced the opening today of the attached survey to support our eighth Cornerstone Report™, focused on General Contracting.

The survey applies to all those who are associated with the industry of documenting buildings. Those of you who contribute to this survey are eligible to receive a copy of the Cornerstone Report™, whether you are a member of the USIBD or not. Please find the directions at the end of the survey to sign up to receive it.

The survey opens today August 31st, and will close on Thursday, September 15th.

Please take just a few minutes to share your opinion as our industry grows! And, if you know someone in the industry who you think would be interested, please forward the survey to them, simply use the forward link at the end of this email.

Take this Survey

Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. Your feedback is very important to us and needed to advance the growth of the Building Documentation industry. Please send any questions/comments/concerns to

About the Cornerstone Report™:
The goal of these reports will be to provide unbiased industry user reviews of everything from hardware and software to general ‘State of the Industry’ breakdowns. They will be performed for two purposes: on a quarterly basis with reoccurring themes and sporadically to measure the industry for specific causes.

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Massive Reef Discovered Behind Great Barrier

North-westerly view of the hidden reef. Depths are coloured red (shallow) to blue (deep), over a depth range of about 50 metres. Credit: James Cook University

North-westerly view of the hidden reef. Depths are coloured red (shallow) to blue (deep), over a depth range of about 50 metres. Credit: James Cook University

Scientists had an idea that there was a much larger reef behind the Great Barrier, but it was the Royal Australian Navy who confirmed the shape, size, and vast scale of the deep reef with bathymetric lidar.

“We’ve now mapped over 6,000 square kilometres. That’s three times the previously estimated size, spanning from the Torres Strait to just north of Port Douglas,” says one of the researchers, Mardi McNeil from Queensland University of Technology.

“They clearly form a significant inter-reef habitat which covers an area greater than the adjacent coral reefs.”

The discovery of this vast, living reef has now got researchers wondering how the effects of climate change and ocean acidification have been felt by these algae populations. Unlike the life on the Great Barrier Reef, which we have decades of history to learn from, we’re just beginning to get to know this ecosystem.

“For instance, what do the 10- to 20-metre-thick sediments of the bioherms tell us about past climate and environmental change on the Great Barrier Reef over this 10,000 year time-scale?” says one of the team, Robin Beaman from James Cook University in Queensland, adding that they’re now going to have to figure out what kinds of life are sustained by these massive bioherms.



Posted in airborne LiDAR, bathymetric, Environmental, Government | Leave a comment

Automation as a Continuum

quanThis is a very interesting article and video interview with the CEO of Quanergy, Dr. Louay Eldada who believes automated vehicles will require video, radar and lidar operating at different wavelengths to provide a complete picture of the environment with redundancy.

Dr. Eldada believes that the automation process itself will be a continuum, the length of which will be driven by the cost curve for the technology. The greater the demand for the sensors the lower the costs of manufacturing for greater quantities which will stimulate more demand and so on.

Posted in Autonomous vehicles, Sensors | Tagged | Leave a comment