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.