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eNewsletter December 2010

Ground Control Points Available World Wide as CompassData and Infoterra Partner

Figure 1. RSGCP (new product) showing a point in the SAR imagery.

What do you need to successfully collect ground control points (GCPs)? Most people will say you need a field data collection team equipped with the right survey and mapping tools. If you have both, chances are you will have a successful mapping project.

But is this all you need? One vital component is missing from this equation: access. If you do not have access to the region or location you need to map, then the best field data collection team and most advanced mapping tools are worthless. You can't survey what you can't access. Access is generally not a problem in places like Denver, Toronto or Western Europe. But there are huge geographic regions of the world where access is an issue—places like Africa, Russia, the Middle East and the Korean peninsula.

One company looked at this problem and came up with an innovative solution. If you can't access these regions on the ground, why not do it from space? And that is precisely what CompassData, Inc., in partnership with Infoterra GmbH, has done.

CompassData, Inc., announced the release of their RS Suite of Remotely Sensed Ground Control Points (RSGCP) at the 2010 GEOINT Symposium. Collaborating with CompassData, Infoterra developed the RSGCP empowered by TerraSAR-X technology making it possible to collect control data in any location in the world. While CompassData Ground Control Points collected by terrestrial means typically offer higher accuracies, this spaceborne approach is a significant milestone in being able to collect control data in remote or denied areas where on-ground GPS surveys are not possible.

Figure 2. The same area shown in Google Earth.

The TerraSAR-X sensor is well suited for collecting precise and accurate 3D ground information regardless of weather or daylight conditions. The satellite has a high degree of orbital accuracy, very precise radar beam tracking, and high data resolution capabilities that result in high geolocation accuracy of the SAR imagery. The 3D ground control points retrieved from TerraSAR-X SpotLight and StripMap modes allow for two categories of RSGCP accuracy: Precision RS-1 (up to one meter accuracy) and Precision RS-2 (up to three meters accuracy).

The data has been evaluated by validating the RSGCP coordinates against Differential GPS control points and/or a highly accurate LiDAR DEM on varied test sites, all situated in challenging terrain. Nevertheless, as RSGCP accuracy strongly depends on terrain conditions and identifiable points, feasibility studies of each Area of Interest are performed.

The RSGCP data are delivered with an Image Chip corresponding with the SAR Image Chip for the control point, a Metadata file in CSV format, a shape file for the Area of Interest, a KML file for viewing in Google Earth, an Accuracy Report and a Site Sketch providing additional details regarding the RSGCPs. More information can be found at: www.compassdatainc.com and www.infoterra.de

Spot Image and Infoterra into New GEO-Information Business Division of Astrium

In January 2011, Spot Image and Infoterra, two subsidiaries of Astrium Services that specialize in satellite imagery and geo-information, will combine forces to form Astrium's new GEO-Information business division. Headed by Patrick Le Roch with the title of Divisional Managing Director, the division will offer a one-stop-shop portfolio of multisource, multi-resolution optical and radar satellite imagery under the Astrium brand and will be backed by the company's financial and R&D resources. Combining more than 25 years of experience, the division will offer a consolidated product and services portfolio covering the entire geographic information services value chain: from satellite imagery to high value-added solutions.

Astrium operates the TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X missions in partnership with the German Aerospace Center and recently committed to financing the next generation of SPOT satellites. Solutions to be offered by the new division include:

  • optical and radar geo-imagery from numerous Earth observation satellites;
  • value-added products, including 3D urban simulations and digital elevation models (DEMs);
  • a set of geo-information services for markets such as defense and security, agriculture, oil & gas, urban planning, insurance and environment;
  • expertise to deliver complex project-based geo-information solutions — current examples including the development of a land administration and taxation system in Mauritius and the implementation of a national spatial data infrastructure for Serbia.

URL: www.astrium.eads.net

GeoEye Completes Acquisition of SPADAC, Inc., a Geospatial Analytics Company

GeoEye, Inc., a provider of satellite and aerial-based geospatial information and services, has completed the purchase of 100 percent of the stock of SPADAC, Inc., a geospatial predictive analytics company, for $46 million in cash and stock. SPADAC has become a wholly owned subsidiary named GeoEye Analytics. It currently provides geospatial predictive analytic solutions to more than 40 customers in the defense, intelligence, and homeland security markets. By combining a clear picture of what is happening now with the ability to mine and analyze relevant information about events, geography, culture, behavior, and historical activities, GeoEye Analytics can help customers attain insight and the location-based intelligence they need to make critical decisions.

URLs: www.spadac.com and www.geoeye.com

Italian Satellite COSMO-SkyMed 4 Transmits First Images

COSMO-SkyMed 4 image of Budapest, Hungary.

The Italian COSMO-SkyMed constellation is now fully operational and complete with the arrival of the system's fourth satellite in its final orbit position. The satellite was launched on November 5 from the Vandenberg base in California, and came fully on-stream with the transmission of the first images to the ground stations. COSMO-SkyMed is a dual-use program employing technology that is among the most advanced in the world to provide data to public institutions, defense organizations, and private companies. The system was created under the auspices of the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research, with financing and technical and operational coordination provided by the Italian Space Agency and co-financing from the Italian Ministry of Defense.

The early orbit operations for the fourth COSMO-SkyMed satellite were once again successfully managed by the LEOP (Launch and Early Orbit Phase) team at Telespazio's Fucino Space Centre, while the first radar images from COSMO-SkyMed 4 were acquired normally by the Matera Space Centre and are now available.

The constellation, which is the jewel in the crown of the Italian Space Agency's programs, is now better able than ever to carry out continuous and accurate Earth observation over time, with parameters that ensure reliability, stability and continuity, relayed at intervals of a few hours, covering all changes, movements and variations to and on the land. Constant monitoring of this kind has never been achieved before. The COSMO-SkyMed system has therefore reached its optimal capacity for acquiring images – around 1,800 a day – day and night in all weather conditions. This makes the Italian system among the most reliable and advanced in the world.

The system was built by Thales Alenia Space (a Thales/Finmeccanica joint venture) in its role as prime contractor with responsibility for the entire program, including both the space and ground segments. Telespazio, a Finmeccanica/Thales company, built the system's entire ground segment and the integrated logistics and operations segment. The Fucino Space Centre houses the control center for the constellation, which manages the satellite acquisition phases after launch and subsequent early orbit phases, as well as command and control activities and the planning of requests for the acquisition of images.

The Italian Space Agency's Matera Space Center is responsible for acquiring, processing, and distributing the data sent back from the COSMO-SkyMed satellites for civil applications, representing a bona fide database of satellite images. e-GEOS, a joint venture between the Italian Space Agency (20 percent) and Telespazio (80 percent), manages the services of the Matera Space Centre on behalf of the Italian Space Agency and markets COSMO-SkyMed data and products around the world.

URL: www.telespazio.com/GalleryCOSMO-SkyMed4.htm

Google Launches New Platform to Monitor and Measure Environmental Changes

At the International Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, in early December, Google launched Google Earth Engine, a new platform that puts an unprecedented amount of current and historical satellite imagery and data online to enable global-scale monitoring and measurement of changes in the earth's environment. The platform will enable scientists to use Google's extensive computing infrastructure—the Google “cloud”—to analyze this imagery. Last year, Google demonstrated an early prototype of this platform.

Scientific analysis can transform satellite images of our planet from a mere set of pixels into useful information—such as the locations and extent of global forests and how they are changing over time. However, due to the computational resources required to analyze the massive satellite imagery archives, many of these images have never been seen, much less analyzed. Now, scientists will be able to build applications to mine this treasure trove of data on Google Earth Engine.

An initial use of the new platform is to support development of systems to monitor, report and verify (MRV) efforts to stop global deforestation, which accounts for 12-18 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions. The world loses 32 million acres of tropical forests every year, an area the size of Greece. The United Nations has proposed a framework known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) that would provide financial incentives to tropical nations to protect their forests. In preparation for REDD, Google will donate 10 million CPU-hours a year over the next two years on the Google Earth Engine platform to strengthen the capacity of developing world nations to track the state of their forests. For the least developed nations, Google Earth Engine will provide critical access to terabytes of data, a growing set of analytical tools, and its high-performance processing capabilities. URL: earthengine.googlelabs.com/#intro

Astrium and French Development Agency to Provide Satellite Imagery to Protect Forests in the Congo Basin

Last year, at the International Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, France committed to providing high resolution satellite imagery to favor sustainable forest management in the Congo Basin countries. Through the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), France will finance the provision of SPOT satellite imagery to central African countries to help them prepare the future REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) mechanism.

The contract between the AFD and the new GEO-Information division of Astrium Services marks the beginning of a broad initiative to map the entire Congo Basin, the second largest forest in the world. Financed by the AFD, this project is implemented by a consortium of institutional partners including the French Space Agency – Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the Institut Géographique National (IGN) and the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD).

This initiative will make SPOT images available to administrations, public institutions, and NGOs working on sustainable forest governance in the Congo Basin countries. SPOT archive imagery dating from 1990 will be used to establish baseline reference maps over the zone. Additional programming campaigns to acquire fresh datasets over the years will track the evolution of forest cover to monitor REDD and future commitments.

URLs: www.astrium.eads.net, www.afd.fr

ERDAS Renews Contract with NGA, Releases 2011 Software, Works with the U.S. Census

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has signed a five-year contract renewal with ERDAS, which includes support and upgrades for NGA's existing ERDAS software holdings and preferred buying arrangements for additional products, licenses, and software maintenance renewals. NGA has continued to increase its investment in ERDAS' offering, with thousands of licenses for ERDAS software applications. With this contract, NGA has expanded its ERDAS investment by 20 percent. (jump to website)

NGA collects and processes geospatial imagery to produce geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) products that present physical features and geographically-referenced activities on the Earth in support of improved decision-making for national security objectives and humanitarian endeavors.NGA currently owns licenses for most products in the ERDAS portfolio, including ERDAS IMAGINE and LPS, their add-on modules, and ERDAS APOLLO.

The ERDAS 2011 Software Release includes the ability to localize ERDAS products for a global audience, integrated support for Bing Maps base imagery and map data, distributed processing throughout the desktop offerings, and a new product, ERDAS Engine, which boosts processing power for ERDAS IMAGINE and LPS, leveraging existing hardware resources for increased production needs or situations requiring faster production output.

ERDAS IMAGINE is a geospatial desktop authoring platform, incorporating image processing and analysis, remote sensing and GIS. ERDAS IMAGINE 2011 features upgraded and streamlined imagery analysis workflows, the ability to geolink to Google Earth, and export to Microsoft PowerPoint, Word, or JPEG with a single click. It also introduces Hyperspherical Color Space (HCS) pan sharpening, developed specifically for DigitalGlobe's WorldView-2 data.

LPS is a workflow-oriented photogrammetry system for production mapping.A key theme for the LPS 2011 release is distributed processing, which enables users to leverage multi-core CPUs and multiple networked servers to accelerate project completion.

ERDAS Extensions for ArcGIS 10 is a production suite of stereo visualization tools that integrate into the Esri ArcGIS 10 environment.Stereo visualization enables users to view imagery in 3D, facilitating interpretation of topological features, enabling more spatially accurate feature collection than digitizing features from an ortho-rectified image.

ERDAS APOLLO is a geospatial solution for managing and serving imagery, delivering virtually any digital object in an enterprise, faster, using less hardware than server-based products. ERDAS APOLLO 2011 introduces clustering, enabling multiple servers to work in concert to fulfill data searches and requests, increasing the number of supportable users. ERDAS APOLLO 2011 can also catalog and serve LIDAR and point cloudfiles (LAS).

For the 2010 census, the U.S. Census Bureau used ERDAS' server-based technologies for timely updating of their integrated national mapping and address system.In 2007, the Census Bureau began implementing ERDAS ADE to provide a real-time, interactive Web editing solution based on the Oracle Spatial 10g/11g topology model. The project, named Geographic ADE-based Topological Real-time Editing System (GATRES), provides tools for selecting and updating features and housing units, creating links to other features.

ERDAS ADE allows multiple users to simultaneously view and edit the same feature in Oracle's Topology Data Model. With ERDAS ADE, the Census Bureau has a visual tool for managing primitive attributes and tracking spatial and non-spatial features and metadata. Users work with address ranges linked to the spatial data in the Master Address File/Topologically Integrated Geocoding and Referencing (MAF/TIGER) System. Later, the Census Bureau enhanced the system, adding ERDAS APOLLO to manage and rapidly serve the organization's massive amounts of imagery, which included one meter (or better) imagery for the majority of the counties in the United States, for multiple years.

ERDAS APOLLO also provides imagery backdrops to the vector data in GATRES. In addition, ERDAS APOLLO works as a plug-in with the organization's other geospatial desktop products. With ERDAS' technology, the solution was able to scale over many remote U.S. Census sites, providing multiple users the ability to dynamically edit and update Oracle Spatial information. The Census Bureau continues to use both ERDAS IMAGINE and ERDAS ER Mapper.

URL: www.erdas.com

LizardTech Releases MrSID Decode SDK 8.0

LizardTech, a division of Celartem Inc. and a provider of software solutions for managing and distributing geospatial content, has released version 8.0 of the MrSID Decode SDK (DSDK). This SDK gives developers tools to support viewing files in the MrSID Generation 4 (MG4) format, unveiled with the recent launch of GeoExpress 8, which adds support for multispectral data, alpha channels, and improved mosaicking. (jump to website)

MG4 is the new version of the LizardTech MrSID file format on which the geospatial industry has relied for years. It accommodates new technologies for analyzing the Earth by supporting hyper-spectral imagery, LiDAR point cloud data, and multi-terabyte datasets. With MG4 users can losslessly compress their geospatial data, mosaic datasets together, color balance raster imagery, and manipulate data in many other ways. LiDAR data compressed to MG4 can be viewed in Merrick MARS, Overwatch LiDAR Analyst, ESRI 3D Analyst, and LizardTech's free GeoViewer. Raster imagery compressed to MG4 can be viewed with either of LizardTech's free viewers.A free download of MrSID Decode SDK 8.0 is available at developer.lizardtech.com.

Watch for the Winter 2011 issue of Imaging Notes in January, which will include a feature article about MrSID Generation 4.

FEMA's New Risk MAP Guidelines Allow Use of NEXTMap USA IFSAR Data

FEMA has released new accuracy and density standards for Lidar and other high-quality digital topography. They allow Intermap Technologies' NEXTMap USA interferometric synthetic aperture radar (IFSAR)-derived digital elevation dataset to be considered for low- and medium-risk specification levels within watersheds for large portions of the United States. According to Intermap, a 3D digital mapping and geospatial solutions company, the data, which provides coverage for the contiguous United States and Hawaii, is available immediately and is less expensive than many higher-accuracy datasets on the market.

For areas where Lidar data is limited, the company offers a proprietary data fusion process that merges existing Lidar and other high quality topographic data with its IFSAR-generated data, creating a seamless transition between the two datasets.

NEXTMap USA's high-resolution digital terrain model (DTM) is hydro-enforced, with elevation points removed from the tops of bridges, culverts, and other selected drainage structures — perfectly suited for many Risk MAP updates throughout the country. Additionally, the metadata within the NEXTMap USA DTM is fully compliant with Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) standards and can be incorporated into FEMA's Mapping Information Platform (MIP) via a documented process provided by Intermap.

URL: www.intermap.com

Solar Map for Salt Lake City Released by Critigen

Critigen, a technology consulting company, has released its latest solar map, covering Salt Lake City, which it developed in collaboration with The Solar Salt Lake Project — a partnership among Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah Clean Energy, and other partners — as well as through work with CH2M HILL. The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar America Cities program. The map enables users to enter a property address and see a snapshot of the property rooftop and its suitability for solar panels. Salt Lake City has set a goal to facilitate at least 10 megawatts of solar installations by 2015.

Critigen, which has developed solar maps for San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles County, Anaheim, and Portland, is able to manage the voluminous and complex data sets needed in these large-scale environments and turn them into meaningful visual information. The Salt Lake City map utilizes a multicolored solar layer, where blue indicates lower solar radiation and red indicates an area of higher solar radiation.

The data is derived from a three-dimensional LiDAR model of the city, which accounts for individual trees, buildings, and structures. These approaches make it simple for property owners to create highly accurate user-defined areas for solar panels in the rooftop areas with the highest solar radiation. The solar map then calculates the system size that will fit into the user-defined area, calculates the amount of electricity that will be generated, and provides information about the cost of the proposed system. If the system is not what the user expected, the property owner can redraw the area to get a different set of results.

In 2007 and 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected 25 major U.S. cities as Solar America Cities, the foundation of DOE’s Solar America Communities program. Through this effort, these cities have been working to accelerate the adoption of solar energy technologies for a cleaner, more secure energy future. These unique federal-local partnerships have enabled DOE to identify barriers to solar energy use in diverse locations and at various stages of market development, and to collaboratively develop solutions to those barriers. The objective is to develop comprehensive approaches that lay the foundation for a viable solar market and provide a model for communities throughout the United States.

URLs: www.critigen.com, solaramericacommunities.energy.gov/, www.slcgov.com/solar

Solar Energy Savings Tool for Denver Launched by DRCOG and Woolpert

Residents and building owners in the Denver metro area can now quickly check their building’s rooftop capacity for solar photovoltaic (PV) energy savings and then connect with area solar installers, including solar thermal providers. The Denver Regional Solar Map, a new website developed by the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), joins similar ventures in San Francisco and Boston to promote the benefits of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. The Denver site is unique in its ability to allow the user to immediately calculate maximum potential solar system size, how much electricity it would generate and potential cost savings. In addition, it links consumers directly with installers. The project is not only expected to bolster adoption of renewable energy in the region, but job creation by connecting contractors to building owners.

A public-private partnership developed the map. With a New Energy Economic Development grant from the Governor’s Energy Office, DRCOG and Woolpert Inc. of Greenwood Village linked DRCOG’s high-resolution digital aerial photography for the region and Light Detection and Ranging data or LiDAR (an aircraft-based system that collects terrain data, used to develop the building footprints in the application’s database) with Woolpert’s expertise to develop base data behind a Web portal. The partnership developed an application that lets users easily locate their properties and explore the benefits of solar PV installation. Through information provided by the Colorado Solar Energies Industries Association (COSEIA), users can also request cost estimates and quotes, along with available energy rebates and incentives, from solar PV installers.

“Many of the people who are thinking about solar don’t know where to begin,” said Neal Lurie, executive director of COSEIA. “This helpful online tool is a great place to start. We’re proud to partner with DRCOG on this project and eager to keep making it easy for businesses and homeowners to go solar.” Tom Plant, executive director of the Governor’s Energy Office, added that “the solar mapping project is an exciting opportunity for people to quickly and easily see how they can benefit from Colorado’s tremendous solar resources and our growing solar industry.”

URL: http://solarmap.drcog.org

ENVI Image Analysis Tools Now in ArcGIS

In the past several years, geospatial imagery has become an integral element to a GIS, providing not just a visual backdrop to a map, but pertinent, contextual information about a geographic area of interest. A challenge many GIS users face is effectively integrating information from imagery with a GIS, without expending valuable time and effort learning advanced image analysis techniques and switching among various software packages.  Now, a partnership between software development leaders ITT and Esri has made it easy to add information from imagery to a GIS.

Figure 1. ENVI’s advanced tools are available in the ArcToolbox, making it easy to process and analyze imagery from directly within ArcGIS. Custom ENVI tools and models can also be authored and published.

The two companies worked together for the past several years to integrate functionality from the ENVI line of image analysis software with Esri’s leading GIS software, ArcGIS. The latest version of ENVI completes the integration, now making it seamless to update a GIS with current geospatial information by providing ArcGIS users with access to ENVI’s image analysis tools directly from within the familiar ArcGIS Toolbox. These scientifically proven, advanced tools allow ArcGIS users to extract useful information from an image and to enhance a GIS quickly and easily, regardless of prior experience with image analysis.

ENVI 4.8 provides nearly 20 pre-built tools which allow users to perform a variety of advanced image analysis tasks, such as finding features of interest, classifying land cover, or detecting change over time – without ever leaving the ArcGIS environment. And, ENVI tools can easily be extended to meet the unique needs of any organization. ENVI provides the capability for ArcGIS users to easily build custom image analysis tools and models in the workflow to which they are accustomed and easily add them to the toolbox.

Concurrent with ENVI 4.8, ITT also introduces ENVI for ArcGIS Server, a revolutionary new ENVI product for ArcGIS Server users, which makes it easy to distribute ENVI’s advanced image analysis tools or custom tools and models to an entire workgroup or organization. ENVI for ArcGIS Server enables users to quickly create image analysis tools in the ENVI desktop, manage and distribute ENVI image analysis tools and models over the enterprise, and deliver them to desktop, mobile and Web applications.

ENVI 4.8 is fully compatible with ArcGIS 10 and 9.3 so users can now include imagery in their workflows while taking advantage of the latest technology that Esri has to offer. The focus of ArcGIS 10 on better use and management of imagery provides an ideal opportunity for ArcGIS users to incorporate ENVI’s scientifically proven image analysis tools.

URL: www.ittvis.com

Figure 2. Changes that occurred over a period of time in a specific location in Antarctica are easy to track using ENVI’s advanced image analysis tools in ArcGIS.

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