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eNewsletter August 2010

Spotlight on the Future of Remote Sensing: IGARSS 2010

By Leonard David, Research Associate
Secure World Foundation

Well over 2,000 experts in remote sensing from around the globe took part in the 2010 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers meeting of the International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS).

This year’s gathering marked the 30th IGARSS meeting and was held July 25-30 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Given a record number of over 2,800 abstract submissions for the meeting, technical areas included themes covering remote sensing of Earth’s land, oceans, atmosphere and cryosphere, from advanced image processing to design of sensors and missions. IGARSS succeeded in providing foundations for both inspirational thinking and an energetic look at the coming decade. An outstanding exhibit hall provided attendees with valuable take-home information.

“In the year 2000, we speculated that remote sensing and geoscience would be spreading far beyond its technical home…to become a part of national and international policy-making and enforcement, land use planning and real-time disaster management, and education,” noted Karen St. Germain, General Co-Chair of IGARSS 2010 and NOAA’s Chief of the Data Products Division at the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Integrated Program Office. (See Photo 1.) “The reality since then has far exceeded even our most optimistic predictions,” she added in opening remarks.

The Silent Revolution of E-Science

St. Germain pointed to a new and dramatic change in the remote sensing landscape – an explosion in the broad area of citizen science, one that will change the very definition of remote sensing.

“The fuel for this revolution has come from the commercial sector. The emergence of extraordinary tools like Google Earth and Microsoft’s Bing has made global data accessible to all,” St. Germain said. “Furthermore,” she continued, “now that smartphones and other Internet devices have proliferated widely, these remarkable devices can be used to provide remote sensing information to local authorities.”

“This is the future that we think that remote sensing will face in the next decade,” explained Paul Smits of the European Commission Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy, and General Co-Chair for IGARSS. “Data management and applications have profoundly changed the way we do research and design, build, and test new systems and applications. In fact, we are witnessing a silent revolution called ‘E-Science’ which has brought about a paradigm shift to the scientific method…where data is driving the foundation of new hypothesis.”

Public Policy Formulation

A highlight of the IGARSS meeting was participation via a special webcast from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Addressing the participants were Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President, as well as Sherburne Abbott, Associate Director for Environment.

“Earth observations is a priority for the White House,” Abbott said, “with President Obama committed to strengthening Earth observations and weather forecasting – essential elements of gauging environmental science and the work of public policy formulation.”

“We live in an unprecedented era of stress on our planet,” Abbott pointed out. “That stress stems from a combination of population growth, climate change, resource demand and the continuing development of coastal areas,” she said. “That creates unparalleled challenges for public health, economic well-being, natural resource management and maintaining national security.”

Echoing the challenges and opportunities ahead for Earth observations, Chopra spotlighted collaborative technologies and applications to help contribute to a “national movement for change.”

Another key element of IGARSS was an agencies panel, with leaders from the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and NASA addressing the past and future of national and international direction in global observations.

“ESA has 30 partner missions,” said Yves-Louis Desnos, Head of the Research and Development section and a Senior Advisor in the Science, Applications and Future Technologies Department. (See Photo 2.)

Desnos updated the audience on ESA’s philosophy on free and open access to data. “No difference is made between public, commercial or scientific use of satellite data,” he said. “We are going to launch 20 new satellites in the next 10 years,” Desnos advised, stressing ESA’s dedication to satellite services for a diverse range of Earth observing applications, from farming to better monitoring of air quality.

Global Vision for Local Action

The rapidly evolving power of Community Remote Sensing (CRS) was a special conference topic recognized at this year’s IGARSS gathering. To that end, “Remote Sensing: Global Vision for Local Action” served as a theme for the meeting.

Community Remote Sensing is a fresh field that combines remote sensing with citizen science, social networks, and crowd-sourcing to enhance the data obtained from traditional sources. It includes the collection, calibration, analysis, communication, or application of remotely sensed information by these community means. Several speakers and specially prepared posters detailed the emergence of these technologies, which are yielding an exciting new means to become better stewards of our planet.

Indeed, the data provided from people and sensors “on the ground” will be instrumental in seeing a much fuller picture for projects around the world, from vehicles collecting road and weather data to disaster management for emergency responders – just to name a few examples.

For examples of Community Remote Sensing, IGARSS 2010 provided the opportunity to detail several ongoing activities, such as:

  • Web Tools for Wheat Farming in Mexico’s Yaqui Valley
  • Virtual Disaster Viewer from ImageCat, Inc.
  • Fire Alert & Fire Risk Systems
  • Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Program
  • Digital Earth Watch and Picture Post Network
  • Towards a World Forest Observatory

An expansive list of these efforts can be found at:


To further explore the richness of IGARSS 2010 and the panorama of presentations from world-class scientists, engineers and educators, go to:


NGA Awards EnhancedView Commercial Imagery Contracts to DigitalGlobe and GeoEye

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has awarded contracts for the EnhancedView commercial imagery program to DigitalGlobe Inc., for $3.5 billion, and to GeoEye Imagery Collection Systems Inc., for $3.8 billion. The period of performance for the contracts is 10 years if all options are exercised.

These competitively awarded contracts support the EnhancedView Program by providing products and services that will help meet the increasing geospatial intelligence needs of the intelligence community and the Department of Defense. EnhancedView provides greater access, priority tasking, and improved capability and capacity to government customers from the next series of U.S. commercial imagery satellites.

These contracts will meet NGA, intelligence community, and Department of Defense needs for additional amounts of imagery beyond what current contracts provide, as well as support humanitarian and crisis support efforts. See www.nga.mil, www.geoeye.com, www.digitalglobe.com.

New NGA Director Letitia Long Takes Over

Letitia A. Long has taken over as the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency from Navy Vice Adm. Robert B. Murrett, who served in the post for the past four years. At the installation ceremony, Secretary of Defense Dr. Robert M. Gates said that "Apart from a critical role in our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, in recent months NGA has worked with other departments to provide a common operating picture in Haiti following the earthquake there, tracked the oil spill in the Gulf, and monitored the ash clouds from the volcano in Iceland, just to name three."

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James R. Clapper Jr. noted, "We are witnessing history with Tish's (Ms. Long's) ascension as the first woman to serve as director of a major intelligence agency." The Director of NGA serves as both the DNI's principal advisor and the intelligence community's functional manager for geospatial intelligence.

Long began her federal civilian career with the Navy in 1978 as a project engineer in training with the David Taylor Research Center. Upon completion of her degree in 1982, she continued with the center for six years working on various submarine acoustic sensor programs. In 1988, she joined the staff of the Director of Naval Intelligence, where she managed Intelligence Research and Development programs.

Long was selected into the Senior Intelligence Executive Service in July 1994 as both Director, Requirements, Plans, Policy and Programs for the Director of Naval Intelligence staff as well as the Director of Resource Management for the Office of Naval Intelligence. From 1994 to 1996, she was on rotational assignment from ONI to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) as Director of Military Intelligence Staff Director. In 1996, she joined DIA as the Deputy Director for Information Systems and Services, where she directed DIA's worldwide information technology and communications programs. She was also DIA's first Chief Information Officer.

Long also served in the positions of Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence, from July 2000 to June 2003, and Director of Central Intelligence's Executive Director for Intelligence Community Affairs, responsible for community-wide policy formulation, resource planning, and program assessment and evaluation, between January 1998 and June 2000. Long was the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Requirements, and Resources from June 2003 until May 2006. She most recently served as the Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, from May 2006 to July 2010. See www1.nga.mil.

Merrick Awarded New Contracts

Merrick & Company has been awarded several new contracts for work to be carried out by its various divisions.

Merrick & Company’s geospatial group (Merrick GeoSpatial Solutions) is providing light detection and ranging (LiDAR) acquisition services and products for the Nebraska Iowa Regional Ortho-photography Consortium (NIROC). The work is being done under a contract to Pixxures, a Colorado-based aerial photography mapping and products services company. NIROC is a collaborative effort organized and led by a consortium of urban cities and counties around Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa. The data for this project is being collected for more than 2,000 square miles and includes the Counties of Douglas, Sarpy, and Lancaster (Nebraska) and a portion of the Platte River Basin.

Merrick GeoSpatial Solutions will also be collecting high density LiDAR data for two transmission lines in Colorado for Xcel Energy and a wind farm located in Kansas. The firm is also using its new helicopter platform to collect LiDAR and other remote sensing data for projects at F.E. Warren Air Force Base.

Merrick Military & Government Facilities was awarded the design of the Fort Stewart Company Operations Facility, located in Georgia. In addition, the firm will be designing a processing and information facility to be located at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. This second project will be designed in the firm’s new San Antonio office. Merrick will also be providing design and design-build services for projects at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and Fort Hood, Texas.

Merrick Life Sciences is continuing its work with additional task orders through current contracts for the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service and Raytheon Technical Services for projects in Azerbaijan. Merrick Civil Engineering Solutions was awarded an on-call contract for roadway and civil engineering services by the City of Colorado Springs Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority. Merrick Technology Systems has been awarded more than $4.0 million in new contract value at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for the design of upgrades and new systems for existing nuclear facilities and the design of special facilities equipment for the Chemical Metallurgical Replacement (CMRR) project. See www.merrick.com.

ITT Acquires CreaSo

ITT Visual Information Solutions (ITT VIS), a subsidiary of ITT Corporation (NYSE: ITT), and a developer of software products for data visualization and image analysis, announced that it has completed the acquisition of Creative Software Systems GmbH, (CreaSo). CreaSo provides software solutions for data analysis and visualization, and distributes ITT's IDL, ENVI and IAS software products in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

“Over the past 18 years, CreaSo has been a true and respected partner of ITT, growing not just the use of our products, but also supporting the growth of scientific and remote sensing professionals and programs throughout the region,” said Richard Cooke, president of ITT Visual Information Solutions. “As CreaSo becomes ITT Visual Information Solutions Germany, our highest priority is continuing to provide the highest level of service and support to existing customers, while growing our pan-European presence to better address the future needs of this growing market.”

The acquisition expands ITT’s ability to directly support the growing markets for its software products in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and The Netherlands and to deliver world class product and services to meet the greater European demand for integrated software solutions that support pan-European scientific analysis and remote sensing initiatives.

“We have enjoyed a very long and beneficial partnership with ITT in providing the software products and added services that have helped our clients succeed in challenging scientific, research and commercial endeavors,” said Bernhard Kortmann, president and CEO of CreaSo. “The acquisition of CreaSo by ITT will ensure that our clients continue to receive the advanced tools they need to meet the challenges of today and the coming years.” See www.ittvis.com.

ERDAS Sells APOLLO to Chinese Research Agency, Supports ASPRS LAS Format

The China Academy of Urban Planning & Design (CAUPD) has selected ERDAS APOLLO to manage and deliver its massive amounts of vector and raster data. CAUPD is a scientific research institution under the Ministry of Construction of the People's Republic of China.

To conduct its urban and rural planning research, CAUPD requires a vast collection of images displaying large, continuous areas of urban development, consisting of terabytes of both raw and processed ALOS and SPOT data. Beijing Digital LandView Company Limited, the authorized ERDAS distributor in China, introduced ERDAS APOLLO to CAUPD and highlighted key features — such as automated data, metadata harvesting and the ability to share information via Web services compliant with Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards. They also showcased ERDAS APOLLO's security model, which enables organizations to specify data access based on geospatial and scale constraints defined for users and/or roles.

ERDAS will support the LASer (LAS) format of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), using the libLAS library’s LPS eATE. LPS is a software product for digital photogrammetric workstations, providing production-oriented photogrammetric tools for triangulation, generating terrain models, producing orthomosaics, and extracting 3D features. LPS eATE is an add‑on module for LPS that produces digital terrain surfaces by utilizing a mixture of photogrammetric and computer vision algorithms to derive clouds of terrain points from imagery. The module enables use of all spectral data, edge‑constrained processing, multiple ray processing, and extensive attribution in LAS output files. It also leverages all hardware resources and can be scaled by using an interface to set up a distributed system.

LPS eATE incorporates the libLAS library to save classified 3D point clouds in LAS format, developed and distributed by ASPRS as an alternative to proprietary formats and ASCII. By supporting this alternative, LPS eATE eliminates the collaboration barriers inherent to proprietary formats and enables users to store raw data, LiDAR-specific information, classification classes, and RGB encoding in a single file. LPS eATE also expands user flexibility since the LAS files contain enough information to enable creation of different products — from stripping away surface features such as vegetation and man-made structures to produce a terrain surface, to associating RGB values from imagery with terrain points so that it can be visualized in 3D.

In ERDAS’ upcoming release, LPS eATE 2011 will extend existing LAS support by adding coordinate systems to files and including attributes to store the file ID and the number of rays used in matching. LPS 2011 will also feature an improved Terrain Prep Tool and the ability to distribute ortho-resampling jobs to achieve faster results. See www.erdas.com.

Past Decade Warmest on Record

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released the 2009 State of the Climate report, which draws on data for 10 key climate indicators that all point to the same finding: the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable. More than 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries contributed to the report, which confirms that the past decade was the warmest on record and that the Earth has been growing warmer over the last 50 years.

Based on comprehensive data from multiple sources, the report defines 10 measurable planet-wide features used to gauge global temperature changes. The relative movement of each of these indicators proves consistent with a warming world. Seven indicators are rising: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, air temperature over oceans, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the Earth’s surface. Three indicators are declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers, and spring snow cover in the Northern hemisphere.

“For the first time, and in a single compelling comparison, the analysis brings together multiple observational records from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the ocean,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The records come from many institutions worldwide. They use data collected from diverse sources, including satellites, weather balloons, weather stations, ships, buoys and field surveys. These independently produced lines of evidence all point to the same conclusion: our planet is warming.”

The report emphasizes that human society has developed for thousands of years under one climatic state, and now a new set of climatic conditions are taking shape. These conditions are consistently warmer, and some areas are likely to see more extreme events like severe drought, torrential rain, and violent storms.

While year-to-year changes in temperature often reflect natural climatic variations such as El Niño/La Niña events, changes in average temperature from decade-to-decade reveal long-term trends such as global warming. Each of the last three decades has been much warmer than the decade before. At the time, the 1980s was the hottest decade on record. In the 1990s, every year was warmer than the average of the previous decade. The 2000s were warmer still.

State of the Climate is published as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and is edited by D.S. Arndt, M.O. Baringer, and M.R. Johnson. The full report and an online media packet with graphics is available online: www.ncdc.noaa.gov/bams-state-of-the-climate.

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