I made a short visit this week to the International LiDAR Mapping Forum. Having attended last year’s event in Denver, I was eager to see how things would compare. In general, the attendees at this conference are collecting LiDAR data using an aerial platform, but the lines are beginning to blur.
First of all it felt good to be supporting the New Orleans economy. From what I could see in the downtown area, things were pretty much back to normal. In fact, there was a number of building renovation projects underway – kudos to the event organizers for choosing this location.
Approximately 500 attended this year’s conference. Things seemed really busy and upbeat. There were nearly 40 exhibitors, which seemed to be twice the number as in Denver, and 10 media sponsors. People that I spoke with said that 2008 had been a very good year for the industry, and that they were cautiously optimistic about 2009. The fall is a busy time for getting aerial work done, so this helped to cushion the effect of the 4th quarter economic collapse. In addition, a significant percentage of the project work is for the public sector, which is also helping to level things out.
I focused most of my time on the show floor. All of the major camera vendors were there, as were the key software players and most of the mapping firms. There were some new players including SAIC, Tiltan Systems Engineering, and Applied Imagery who has been working mainly in the DOD space. There were companies from Norway, Finland, Korea, India and Canada, to name a few. The 2 groups that got my attention were Definiens AG based in Munich, and Velodyne from sunny California.
Definiens tag line tends to say it all, “Understanding Images”. The company is leveraging the work of Gerd Binnig, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986 for his work in emulating human cognitive processes. Definiens is searching for the Holy Grail – automated feature classification and extraction, and they may be closer to finding it than most. Rather than working with pixels in isolation, they use an object based, iterative approach to analyze pixels in context. This allows them to use color, shape, texture and size of objects by fusing data from many sources.
Woolpert reported on an impervious surface mapping pilot project in Columbus Ohio where the software was used with LiDAR and color infrared orthophotography. Over the past 2 years the Ohio Statewide Imagery Program has obtained highly accurate digital orthos and LiDAR for every county in Ohio. The City of Columbus charges property owners a stormwater fee based on impervious surface area within their property.
Bottom line, Woolpert reported an increase in accuracy of the assessments and a time savings of approximately 75% as compared to the manual heads up digitizing process currently being used. The Definiens software is designed to run in a client server environment, and is being positioned as an enterprise scale solution.
The Velodyne HLD -64E has a 64 element LiDAR sensor that is capable of producing 3D georeferenced video. The unit “grew out” of the DARPA Urban Challenge Competition. Five of the six successful teams in the 2007 Challenge used the HLD – 64E to guide the navigation of the autonomous vehicles.
The folks from Velodyne told me that they are finding it difficult to keep up with their customers’ innovative uses of this exciting sensor. Is this the consumer application for LiDAR? Think GPS and in-vehicle navigation.