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 An Oblique View of Terrain Mapping
Ryan Hamilton
Ryan Hamilton
Ryan Hamilton majored in Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado and has been employed within both the LiDAR and IFSAR mapping worlds since 1998. His interests (that all appear to be tied to mapping) include blue water sailing, backcountry skiing and big mountain and downhill mountain … More »

Unfortunate Byproduct of Remote Sensing

November 22nd, 2013 by Ryan Hamilton

As remote sensing technologies become both more accurate and detailed, as well as more frequently collected and posted in public view, when will the geospatial world start to experience significant push back from civil rights groups? Just last week an image of a boy’s murder scene in California was brought to the attention of the boy’s parents causing them severe mental anguish.

The image was an aircraft-based, natural-color image taken from a low-altitude aircraft from 4 years ago, and Google has agreed to replace it as soon as possible. But, the idea that a mapping image has entered this family’s private life makes one wonder how many more situations like this will occur as the image resolution from spaceborne platforms, that can update regularly and goes beyond the 50 centimeter level, and image updates begin jumping to monthly and even daily intervals. Street view gives a good preview into the world of high resolution monitoring because the images are collected at street level so we can actually see, in detail, what is taking place.

The intent of remote sensing, and even street view, has never been to capture people and their activities, it is just an unfortunate byproduct of remotely-sensed map data. So, with the advent of even higher res remote sensing, captured to improve our understanding of the world, who knows what will actually be shown.

Why World 30?

November 7th, 2013 by Ryan Hamilton

NEXTMap® World 30™ has been an ambition of the Intermap® data engineers since the processing of the SRTM collection back in 2001. The lack of ground control for the SRTM dataset was an obvious area that could stand to be improved. Our radar engineers knew that when the right ground control became available a fantastic opportunity would present itself to update this detailed dataset and make it the best circum-world coverage dataset available. The secret ingredient was the introduction of NASA ICESat data. In raw form, this global set of LiDAR ground control points was a cumbersome mix of cloud strike points and anomalies. Intermap polished the raw ICESat data using an extensive filtering process that cleaned the data set and reduced it to 820 million ground control points, scattered with predictable regularity around the globe and boasting a vertical accuracy of 25cm RMSE or better. With this control data, an SRTM error mask could finally be created and applied to adjust the Z values of the SRTM DSM.

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Halloween Mapping Fun

October 31st, 2013 by Ryan Hamilton

With me being a map geek and my wife a teacher, I am always looking for ways to make mapping lessons that are engaging for my wife to use at her school. Last night, I sat down with my two girls and found an easy way to make mapping fun and practical to sugar-motivated 8 year olds. We went to our neighborhood in Google Earth and decided to map out our plan for Trick or Treating.

The route needed to include the houses we have friends at as well as the houses that we know from previous years have the best candy, or some really scary decorations and haunted front yards. We tagged each of those houses and then drew a route that hit everyone of our tags in the most efficient way. For the kids, this became a treasure map of sorts and they can’t wait to print off multiple copies to share with the neighborhood kids. Read the rest of Halloween Mapping Fun

Re-Mapping the World on an Hourly Basis

October 29th, 2013 by Ryan Hamilton

On my recent plane ride back from Europe I received a question that we have probably all heard before, but is a poignant reminders of how mapping is still not fully integrated into the consciousness of our society. Making small talk with my row-mate, she asked what I did for a living. My response about accurate mapping prompted the typical reply of “isn’t everything already mapped?”

It’s a legitimate question and I don’t fault anyone for asking because of course we have world maps and most countries are mapped to amazing detail. However, two components of the mapping industry that are overlooked by outsiders are accuracy and change. Accuracy beyond a certain level of sub meter becomes irrelevant to most mapping applications, but most of the earth’s surface has not been measured to even the sub 5 meter level, and when it comes to infrastructure mapping, some places are completely unmapped. Fortunately, new technology and international funding projects are slowly emerging which will help many countries catch up to the mapping levels of some of the developed nations.

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The Human Aspect of Town Planning

October 22nd, 2013 by Ryan Hamilton

I am currently in the middle of a business trip visiting our data resellers in Europe. Though my days have been filled with meetings and discussions of geospatial data and solutions applications, my evenings have been spent partaking in the British tradition of the Public House. From a geographer’s point of view, the pub is great example of how the design of towns has changed over time. Historically, to become a town in Britain, there needed to be two things: a church and a pub. The church was there to keep morals in line and the pub was there as the place for news and ideas to be exchanged. As towns grew, the pubs and churches multiplied to make sure they stayed within walking distance. Read the rest of The Human Aspect of Town Planning

Moving the Nation’s Natural Gas

October 17th, 2013 by Ryan Hamilton

Land slip risk assessment as a means of highlighting buckling and cross slope threat

A couple of weeks ago I had a mountain bike race in one of my favorite places in the world: Moab, Utah. The race went okay despite destroying a shock, rear derailleur, and my rear wheel. Even for a hack like me, that is a significant list of parts to go through in just three days of riding. The fact is that southwest Utah is a rugged place and it’s hard on equipment, which is why I was intrigued by a new natural gas pipeline being built along the Interstate 70 corridor. If you were to view this pipeline project in just one spot it might not seem all that impressive; it’s just a 2-foot wide by 8-foot deep trench with a green pipe being laid inside. However, when you observe it for hours on end outside your speeding car window, snaking along for hundreds of miles through the rugged and formidable Moab desert, you get a real appreciation for how monumental a task this project really is. Considering 60 miles of bike riding in Moab all but destroyed my bike, I have to imaging the equipment used in this build project will most likely be scrap metal by the time the pipeline is completed.

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I want my data

October 15th, 2013 by Ryan Hamilton

Access to data has never been easier. Web services and cloud storage have allowed a new level of access to geospatial data that would have been unimaginable 10 years ago. One of the hottest resources for getting data now is WeoGeo.

Promotion and sales are easy for data suppliers who can easily go to the WeoGeo marketplace and have their data reach millions of professionals. WeoGeo filters the available data depending on an area of interest and the data type that the buyer wants. As more and more suppliers and vendors join onto the WeoGeo marketplace, the geospatial world gets closer to a true one-stop data shop. Besides the convenience and ease of getting the right data, access to geo data has also become more economically friendly.

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Cancellation of the World’s Largest Symposium on Government Geospatial Data

October 9th, 2013 by Ryan Hamilton

The US Federal Government spends an estimated 4 billion dollars a year on commercial geospatial data. The very existence of companies like DigitalGlobe is based on government contracts. But as Washington continues to bicker over political posturing that puts party before country, the effects are starting to hit the geospatial community. Not only are the horrible and non-targeted spending reductions like the sequester indiscriminately cutting into geospatial budgets, forced furloughs due to a self-inflicted government shutdown have halted data appropriations. They have also caused the cancellation of the world’s largest symposium on government geospatial data use and purchasing, the GEOINT Symposium.

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Terrain Data in Developing Cloud Belt Countries

October 4th, 2013 by Ryan Hamilton

The demand for terrain data in developing countries within the equatorial cloud belt has really exploded in the last few years. Intermap® has always had an advantage in collecting 5-meter radar data in countries along the cloud belt due to the active sensor nature of radar and its ability to see through clouds.

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Droning on about drones

October 1st, 2013 by Ryan Hamilton

Five years ago at the ESRI User Conference, I had my first close encounter with a mapping drone or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). I was instantly intrigued and wanted to jump right in and invest my life savings into starting my own aerial data collection company. But alas, I actual looked before I leaped and found a whole bunch of FAA regulations that prohibited the use of such drones in the good ol US of A. So I spent my money on mountain bikes instead.
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