Above Featured Image: ￼This image of Lyons, Colorado, was taken during the historic floods on Sept. 14, 2013. Visible is U.S. Highway 36 from the bottom right, going north. At the dead end, following the highway left is the center of the Town of Lyons. The dark brown color is water standing among the green of the trees. Lyons is known for the live music venue Oskar Blues, where the beer company of the same name was founded, and for their bluegrass and folk music scene, in particular the spectacular outdoor venue, Planet Bluegrass, which was damaged in the flood, as was most of the town. Image is a Natural Color Image. Courtesy of DigitalGlobe Analysis Center.
DEAR READERS,What an incredible time we live in! The multiplication of technology disruptions that are taking place in the geospatial industry is quite remarkable. As a dynamic technology niche that combines hardware, software and sensors, there is rarely a dull moment, but the sheer number of disruptive technologies and policy forces at the moment has to be at a record high. This brings both excitement for the future as well as some trepidation that business models are needing to be drastically rewritten.
This issue focuses on several disruptors to the way the geospatial industry has traditionally done business, from the NGA seeking solutions from non-traditional companies (read here) to small sats offering significantly less expensive options for countries around the world to have access to Earth imagery (read here and read here).
A Top Ten List of Disruptors appears here. One of these is wearable computing, or “wearables,” such as Google GLASS, which I am wearing in the photo above, and for which the release date has been moved to 2014.
The pending disruption of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, or vehicles, as UAVs) may be the most dramatic. UAS represent a significant improvement in efficiency of aerial collection and monitoring, and yet they’re still caught in limbo in the United States while in other countries, companies can gain a leap of practical application experience with little restriction. The technology appears to be moving forward rapidly in research circles, and the use cases are building up; it’s going to be a chaotic and exciting time when FAA restrictions fall and interesting and impactful applications begin to proliferate.
This July, the FAA gave permission to ConocoPhillips to use UAS in Alaska. This is the first time a private company has received permission to fly UAS in America for non-experimental purposes. It is perplexing that this permission was given only to one private company.
The recent Colorado floods saw an interesting and potentially game-changing use of UAS technology. Falcon UAV flew areas of high water in Longmont, Colo., providing a service that would have been impossible by satellite because of cloud cover, and very difficult for manned aircraft due to emergency air rescue activity. Very quickly, Falcon UAV’s fixed-wing craft collected details of the flood impact and extent, as well as a reliable high- resolution record of the quickly-changing conditions on ground. See http://bit.ly/16AsxMu. The company was shut down by FEMA before they were able to capture some of the more dramatic damage up the road in Lyons, Colo. (We include a satellite image of Lyons from DigitalGlobe above)
While it’s understandable that there should be tight control of airspace in a disaster zone, it also seems that an opportunity was missed where the technology could have filled an important gap in disaster management and damage assessment. The Secure World Foundation Forum addresses the opportunity of “using UAS for good” here.
For more articles on The Age of Disruption, please see the other publications of the Location Media Alliance: Sensors & Systems (www.sensorsandsystems.com), Informed Infrastructure (www.informedinfrastructure.com), LBx Journal (www.lbxjournal.com), and Asian Surveying and Mapping (www.asmmag.com).
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