Billy Noble, Applications Specialist at Blue Marble Geographics, answers questions that come into the technical support inbox. In this video, Billy demonstrates how to find the coordinates of a point in a loaded point cloud in LAS format using Global Mapper.
Blue Marble Geographics® offers several training options to help users get the most out of their all-in-one geographic information system (GIS) software, Global Mapper®: Customized training for companies or organizations needing tailored instruction based on specific workflow needs; self-training that are comprised of a series of lessons that users can tackle at home at their own pace; and public training courses that cover the extensive functionality of Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module®.
While all three options have their benefits, the public training courses that take place at a variety of locations around the world, come with a handful of perks on top of being great opportunities for users to increase the return on their Global Mapper investment.
Here are the top five reasons why you should sign up for a public training class:
1. GIS training for both beginners and professionals
Public training that molds to the GIS skill levels and knowledge of the attendees.
A couple of weeks before the class, attendees receive a Getting Started package, which includes the following resources:
PDF of the training manual
Data files that will be used in the course
Links to the Getting Started Guide and video
While it’s not required for attendees to look at these resources, the package gives them the opportunity to see the topics covered in the courses. It also gives attendees time to reach out to Blue Marble’s training team with any specific questions or concerns they may have about the material.
This pre-course communication helps trainers understand attendees’ skills in GIS, ensuring that all attendees get the most out of their individual training experience.
2. Hands-on instruction from GIS experts
In a public training class, Blue Marble’s applications specialists walk through workflows that attendees follow, and provide plenty of opportunities for attendees to ask questions.
Introducing functionality that attendees may not have previously known, this hands-on experience allows trainees to apply new knowledge with real data and in meaningful ways. Their earned skills — ranging from basic Digitizer usage to more advanced functions such as a variety of terrain analysis functions — can later be remembered and practiced at home with the training manual and data files trainees will take with them.
3. A resume builder with an official certification
The complete Global Mapper training course is a three-day program incorporating two separate courses that attendees can sign up for, either individually or as one continuous program. The first two days are dedicated to the core functionality of Global Mapper, and the third day focuses on the LiDAR Module and point cloud processing.
Individually, the courses are great resume builders. When taken together, they earn attendees an official Global Mapper User certification. If an attendee is just starting their GIS-related career, a certificate can be a valuable credential proving their broad range of terrain analysis, 3D data editing, LiDAR processing skills, and more.
4. An introduction to LiDAR and point cloud processing
With increased access to affordable ways of collecting LiDAR and point cloud data, it’s become more important for GIS professionals to understand what to do with this data and to have access to tools that can efficiently process it.
The third day of training focuses on point cloud processing, covering a range of topics, including: LiDAR filtering and editing techniques, photogrammetric point cloud creation with the Pixels-to-Points® tool, feature extraction, and more. Whether trainees are just starting to use point cloud data, or if they are experienced, this one-day intensive class will cover everything they need to know about Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module’s capabilities.
5. A networking opportunity – connecting with GM users
Supplementing the learning experience, the public training courses also offer the opportunity for trainees to meet other members of the Global-Mapper-user community and to network within the industry. A broad range of professionals — from government workers to UAV pilots — attend and benefit from Blue Marble’s training courses, which makes these courses rich in a different way every time.
Public Training – A valuable GIS experience
Whether it’s to boost a burgeoning GIS career or to re-energize and enrich a mature one, Blue Marble’s public training is a valuable experience that provides insight into the basics of Global Mapper, lesser known software features, certification, and networking opportunities.
The latest version of Blue Marble Geographics’ coordinate conversion software continues the 25-year tradition of providing solutions for the most complex geodetic challenges. Geographic Calculator 2019 offers a number of requested improvements, such as a more user-friendly interface, a universal copy and paste function, a new angular unit conversion tool, as well as several enhancements to seismic file format support. However, a closer look also reveals several new features that provide some insight into more significant shifts in Blue Marble’s future development plans.
Geographic Calculator 2019 has added support for version 5.0 of the National Geodetic Survey’s (NGS) North American Datum Conversion tool (NADCON 5.0). This single line item in the release notes may be easily overlooked, but it represents years of work by NOAA-NGS. It also represents a fundamental change in the way United States coordinate reference system and reference frame transformations are performed. Before delving into the details, let’s answer this question…
What is NADCON 5.0?
The origin of this transformation methodology is rooted in the readjustment of the North American Datum of 1927 (NAD27) to the North American Datum of 1983 (NAD83). The differences between these reference frames were very regional and irregular, which resulted in shifts that could not easily be modeled with traditional mathematical transformations. The solution was the original North American Datum Conversion (NADCON) Utility, which was adopted in 1990 as the federal standard for modeling differences between the two systems.
The early versions of the NADCON transformations typically had an accuracy of 12 to 18 centimeters, which represented a significant improvement over most other large-scale models at the time. That said, the tool did have its shortcomings. According to NGS, it was “poorly documented, was applied inconsistently across regions, contained numerous errors, and was difficult to use”. Those kinds of defects were also shared by another NOAA-NGS tool called GEOCON, introduced during the realization of the NAD83(2007) reference frame. The significant difference between the original NADCON and GEOCON transformations was the latter’s ability to perform three-dimensional coordinate transformations among various newer NAD83 frames. This was also improved in GEOCON11 (version 2.0), but time constraints meant that only eleven states were able to provide data for these adjustments.
NADCON 5.0 was built to replace both of these imperfect NGS tools. Unlike its predecessors, it is well-documented, more “user-friendly”, it includes downloadable transformation grids that can be integrated into third-party software, and covers the entire United States (including overseas territories). Newer remote sensing technology and the ability to handle much larger datasets also allows for a finer level of detail during the transformation process. As with the GEOCON model, NADCON 5.0 also offers new transformations between many reference frames and three-dimensional coordinate systems, and it supports the US National Spatial Reference System (NSRS) as well as many other previously unrecognized local horizontal coordinate systems dating back to the late 1800s. It also provides local error estimates as a component of the transformation, which is likely to pique the interest of your friendly neighborhood geodesist.
How does NADCON 5.0 work?
Like the traditional NADCON version 4.0 transformation, version 5.0 is delivered as a set of grid files that can be used to move between individual reference frames. Unlike version 4.0 however, it is no longer limited to horizontal shifts. The new grid files contain fields for identifying 3D transformations between reference frames and an error metric where available. Furthermore, there is a much larger set of grids to choose from and it is no longer constrained to the traditional NAD27->NAD83 or NAD83(20xx)->NAD83(20xx) model. Instead, transformations can be performed between six separate realizations of NAD83, NAD27, and the US Standard Datum (USSD). NADCON 5.0 also provides access to precise transformations between other historic systems such as the Old Hawaiian Datum, Puerto Rico 1940, and local Alaskan systems, such as the St. Paul Island reference frame of 1897 and 1852.
Unlike the old version 4.0 transformation, NADCON 5.0 was designed to chain together various grid files to provide a more accurate result. This makes things a bit more complicated because of the need to keep track of individual transformations as components of a larger concatenated operation. The following diagram shows an example of a shift from the NOAA Technical Report NOS NGS 63.
The illustration shows a chain of transformations for moving a surveyed data point based on the USSD system to NAD83(2011). Any subset of the chain can be used independently as part of the NADCON 5.0 model. This chain process can support a new model once it is created (for example, the 2022 National Reference System) and with one grid file, associate it to all historical models.
So what is foreshadowing about the addition of NADCON 5.0 in Geographic Calculator?
NADCON 5.0 will be instrumental in the transition to yet another adjustment from NAD83 on the horizon — the introduction of the new National Reference Frame of 2022 (NATRF2022) and NSRS2022.
If you are a frequent visitor to Projections, the Blue Marble blog, you may have read an entry by Product Manager Sam Knight explaining why the new NSRS is being developed. If you haven’t seen Sam’s entry, the short explanation is that geoid and GPS-height accuracy have improved and that NAD83 did not account for the dynamic movement of our planet over time. Under the new system, all measurable gravity-related values (such as orthometric heights, geoid undulation, deflections of the vertical, etc…) will be time dependent for compatibility with the NATRF2022 coordinate systems — making for more accurate time-dependent transformations.
NSRS2022 will also replace all of the current vertical datums, which will require updates to VERTCON — another NGS transformation tool. Originally designed to transform between the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD 88) and the North Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD 29), the 2022 update to VERTCON will transform orthometric heights from the old datums into heights in the new North American-Pacific Geopotential Datum (NAPGD2022).
Small changes leading up to larger changes
With awkward acronyms, complex geodetic concepts, and NGS tool history, the 2022 update as it relates to NADCON 5.0 is a lot for a short blog entry. But hopefully you get the key message: NGS is making big changes that will lead to more accurate transformations and Geographic Calculator is an early adopter of these new geodetic parameters. Be on the lookout for more updates as tools like NADCON 5.0 develop and grow. Until then, the Geographic Calculator will continue to hold a finger on the NGS pulse.
Last week, we, at Blue Marble, held our annual “Winter Holiday” week — seven days of festivities and team-building fun. It’s one of the few times each year that our remote employees join us at the office and we have the chance to show them a good time.
During the week, we enjoyed dinner and a post-work game of trivia at our favorite local pub, where we came in second place … not too shabby. We had a fierce winter-wonderland-themed decorating contest. 22 of us entered, but only 1 was crowned the winner – Jess, with her gingerbread-themed desk that offered cookies, beer, and hot chocolate.
We also took some time for some team building within departments. The Development team watched a movie, Tech Support and QA went bowling, and Sales and Marketing went out to breakfast.
The Company Holiday Party
At the end of the week, the whole company came together for our annual Holiday Party, where we looked back on 2018 in this video:
We had fun sharing a meal together, participating in a team gingerbread-building contest, playing spoons (the card game), and opening gifts in our Yankee swap, during which the infamous nose-hair trimmer was re-gifted once again.
From our work family to yours, have a safe and happy Holiday!
So, there might be a chance that you haven’t actually heard of this event. That’s ok! I’m writing this to convince you that, whether you are a Blue Marble software user or not, you should know about this conference.
Here are the five reasons why you should join us at the Blue Marble User Conference next year:
1. I’m there! … and Global Mapper architects, developers, and experts are too
Yes, I’m there running around taking pictures and recording video (and eating the food), but what’s more valuable to you are the software developers and resellers who are there to hear your questions and requests.
This particular Blue Marble User Conference was especially valuable because the Global Mapper guru Mike Childs and our international resellers were there. After the day’s presentations and software demonstrations were over, Mike answered questions and heard software suggestions from attendees while our product manager jotted down the ideas.
It’s a part of Blue Marble’s core values to welcome and encourage users to be part of the development process. That user-to-developer communication is usually in the form of emails, but at a Blue Marble conference, users can communicate directly with the experts and know their ideas will make it to a discussion in our development meetings.
2. You will be inspired by presentations from distinguished GIS professionals
Did you know that scientists know more about the surfaces of Mars and the moon than they do of the Earth’s ocean floor – aka 75% of the world’s surface? I didn’t.
At this Blue Marble User Conference, Larry Mayer, Director of the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering and Director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire (phew! Long title!), delivered a presentation on the advancements in sonar and visualization technology for exploring the sea floor. He explained how the technology has helped in the discovery of 3,000-meter high mountains in the Arctic, D-day wrecks, the behavior of whales, and the history of climate through the impact of ice on the sea floor. He touted that investing in more ocean research would help us, people of the world, gain a better understanding of our planet.
Our second keynote speaker and CEO of Aerial Filmworks, Ron Chapple took attendees from exploring the deep with Larry to examining the Earth from above. Ron talked about the challenges that came with producing the Pulitzer Prize-winning documentary “The Wall”, which analyzes the impact of the proposed wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. His role in the project was to shoot aerial footage, over which he highlighted the location of the 2,000-mile long border using Global Mapper.
I was surprised to learn how difficult it was for the team of “The Wall” to accurately represent the curvy U.S.-Mexico border in the video.
My point is that BMUC includes amazing presentations by distinguished GIS professionals that give insight into projects that are relevant to the industry today.
3. You will leave smarter and gain Global Mapper “Tips and Tricks”
In between presentations at this year’s BMUC, Senior Applications Specialist David McKittrick took a few minutes to share some “tips and tricks” on how to use Global Mapper. The tips ranged from how to use the multiview display, smooth contours, view data in Google Earth, and create a terrain cutaway.
David also presented on the recent release of Global Mapper 20 and the LiDAR Module, which offers streamlined map layout tools, the ability to create a point cloud from a 3D mesh, a new eyedropper tool for selecting features, dramatically faster loading speeds for working with vector files, and a lot more.
All of these demonstrations were followed by an opportunity for attendees to ask questions that would help them apply these techniques to their own projects.
4. You will eat with other GIS professionals and have a chance to win a prize
Throughout the day, drinks and snacks were available, and at noon we provided lunch. During lunch, we challenged our attendees to participate in a Where in the World Geo-Challenge, in which they were asked to guess the names of geographic features in a slideshow.
At this year’s BMUC, we came prepared with a tiebreaker question, since we expected that a room full of GIS professionals would easily be able to guess all of the features correctly. The winner of the challenge went home with a gift card to the Blue Marble Emporium.
5. You will spend only $25 to attend
So why wouldn’t you attend BMUC if it’s only $25 for a day full of GIS presentations, networking, and lunch?!
They had me at “lunch”, so … I’m not sure why you wouldn’t register.
Stay tuned for future Blue Marble User Conferences
All jokes aside, BMUC truly has a lot to offer GIS professionals, even if you aren’t a user of Blue Marble software. From the insights of our keynote speakers, to the latest software developments and one-on-one interactions with our experts, BMUC is a great opportunity to connect with Blue Marble staff, have a direct impact on the software you use, and to network with members of the GIS community.
Chelsea Ellis is Graphics and Content Coordinator at Blue Marble Geographics. Her responsibilities range from creating the new button graphics for the redesigned interface of Global Mapper 18 to editing promotional videos; from designing print marketing material to scheduling social media posts. Prior to joining the Blue Marble team, Ellis worked in graphic design at Maine newspapers, and as a freelance photographer.
Cultivating a sense of moral responsibility for the environment involves more than public service announcements — it’s based on scientific knowledge.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works to conserve and protect natural resources, such as species on the federal endangered list, through observing changes in the environment and what those changes impact. As one of the bureaus of the Department of Interior, the agency chooses Global Mapper to assist in this environmental research.
The bureau’s Spatial Ecologist Paul A. Lang specifically monitors the habitat of three subspecies of beach mice:
St. Andrew beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus peninsularis)
The mice inhabit the coastal dune ecosystem along the northern Gulf Coast of Mexico in the panhandle of Florida – an area vulnerable to impacts due to tropical storm events and sea level rise. Lang is interested in gaining a greater understanding of the habitat for the long-term conservation of the beach mice. Lang uses Digital Terrain Models (DTMs) for 2015 in order to investigate sea level changes.
A Lack of High Resoultion DTMs
The most important consideration when embarking
on any GIS project is ensuring access to appropriate and clean data.
One of the challenges that Lang has faced in his work is the lack of a high resolution DTMs of the area in which the mice live for certain years. As a solution, Lang accessed publicly available Topobathy LiDAR data from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE). This high density point cloud data was collected aerially and was obtained directly from the USACE and from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) data clearinghouse.
In order to integrate this data into his research, Lang needed software that had the tools for generating accurate DTMs from the LiDAR data without a steep learning curve.
Generating DTMs in Global Mapper
Lang chose to use Global Mapper and the accompanying LiDAR Module for his habitat mapping.
With a few simple steps, he generated the high resolution DTMs he needed for his research. First, he imported the .las files into Global Mapper and cropped them down to the area of focus. After visualizing and examining the characteristics and metadata of the point clouds in the software, Lang determined that further classification and clean-up was unnecessary. Second, he examined the inherent statistics of the data to get a better sense of the resolution he could create in the resulting DTMs. Third, he used the Create Elevation Grid tool to generate several DTMs that tested different values of No Data distance in order to fill gaps in the point clouds. After these tests, Lang arrived at high resolution DTMs based on the LiDAR data he obtained from the USACE.
From there, Lang was able to use the Simulate Water Level Rise functionality in Global Mapper to visualize potential water inundation on the mice habitat.
The Benefits of Global Mapper
According to Lang, he chose Global Mapper for his analysis because he didn’t find other software as “straight-forward” for processing LiDAR data. Global Mapper’s easy-to-use platform allowed Lang to quickly and accurately generate the high resolution DTM he needed without taking time away from his research.
Global Mapper allows for easy visualization, editing, and filtering of LiDAR and other point cloud datasets. The addition of the LiDAR Module, expands this functionality with auto-classification tools, automatic and custom feature extraction, point filtering options, and numerous other point cloud editing capabilities.
About Global Mapper
Global Mapper is an affordable and easy-to-use GIS application that offers access to an unparalleled variety of spatial datasets and provides just the right level of functionality to satisfy both experienced GIS professionals and beginning users. Equally well suited as a standalone spatial data management tool and as an integral component of an enterprise-wide GIS, Global Mapper is a must-have for anyone who deals with maps or spatial data. The supplementary LiDAR Module provides a powerful set of tools for managing point cloud datasets, including automatic point classification and feature extraction.
About Blue Marble Geographics
Since the early 1990s, Blue Marble Geographics has been a pioneer in the development of powerful and innovative geospatial software. Widely regarded for its expertise in coordinate conversion and file format support, Blue Marble’s products include Geographic Calculator, the paradigm for highly accurate spatial data conversion and advanced projection management; Global Mapper, a fully-functional and affordable GIS application; and the Global Mapper LiDAR Module, a suite of powerful point cloud processing tools.
Say that you are about to invest in your first GIS software license.
You need software that can do it all; from basic thematic mapping to terrain analysis, and GPS tracking to 2D/3D digitizing and visualization. But when you take a look at big-name products, you find that single-user licenses cost about $1,500. You also discover that you’ll have to purchase extensions to get all the functionality you need. You’ll probably be spending thousands of dollars. Whether you have the money or not, you might be asking yourself if there’s an alternative software that provides more value.
In this blog entry, we highlight some of the out-of-the-box functionality of Global Mapper— a robust, easy-to-use, and genuinely affordable alternative. Priced at about $500, Global Mapper doesn’t need expensive extensions to deliver what you’re looking for.
Here are just a few of the powerful functions and tools Global Mapper has to offer with no extensions required.
Terrain Creation – Generate Elevation Grids from 3D Vector Data
Even though Global Mapper’s online service provides access to data resources, such as the USGS National Elevation Dataset and the ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model, sometimes the appropriate digital terrain data isn’t readily available. In such instances, generating a DTM from 3D vector data can be a solid alternative. With a few clicks, Global Mapper can generate an elevation grid from XYZ files or LiDAR data, allowing for the immediate examination and visualization of the surface model in the 3D Viewer.
Global Mapper also provides a number of terrain analysis tools, such as the ability to display a vertical profile along a path, creating a view shed or watershed analysis, combining terrain layers, and volume calculation.
Volume Calculation – Measure and Visualize Cut and Fill Values
Modifying terrain is a necessary preliminary step in many construction projects. It requires determining how much of a surface needs to be cut and filled, which helps estimate the cost of materials and labor before beginning a project.
Global Mapper offers the ability to quickly calculate volumes of piles, depressions, and between two surfaces. Along with providing cut and fill measurements, the software uses these calculations and other specified parameters to generate 3D visualizations. For example, Global Mapper can simulate the leveling of terrain to make way for something like a new road. This calculation and 3D visualization is a powerful way to illustrate the preliminary plans of an engineering project.
Contour Generation – Create Vector Lines from an Elevation Grid
Contours are the fundamental feature of a topographic map. Generating contours is also a simple task that requires only an elevation grid and a few clicks of the mouse. Global Mapper has the ability to analyze terrain and generate vector layers of contour lines that can be edited for a map, or exported to a CAD system or other software.
Raster Calculation – Pull Information from Color Values
Satellite images can offer a lot of visual information, from patterns in terrain to geological changes over time. With the right tools, imagery can offer even more data that is not immediately apparent. RGB (red, green, blue), as well as multispectral values of pixels, can be plugged into formulae that calculate characteristics such as the “greenness” of vegetation, snow cover, or how much land was burned in a forest fire.
Global Mapper has a raster calculator that comes with predefined formulae for producing and highlighting this information. The health of vegetation on a farm, for example, could be calculated and visualized by using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). If the available predefined equations in the raster calculator aren’t tailored to a user’s needs, the calculator also allows for the use of custom formulae.
Format Support – Support for 300+ Formats
File support might not sound like the most exciting feature, but it’s absolutely an invaluable one when a mapping project deals with older or uncommon files.
Global Mapper’s support for more than 300 formats provides users the ability to open and convert virtually any geospatial file. And, it’s list of formats is constantly growing, adding more value to Global Mapper as the software continues to mature.
Global Mapper – An Easy and Affordable Choice
Global Mapper not only disproves the idea that GIS has to be a complex discipline, but also that it has to be an expensive one. Blue Marble Geographics’ mission for Global Mapper is to provide GIS novices and professionals alike with the ability to create high-quality maps at a genuinely affordable price.
It’s powerful right out of the box, with no extensions required.
See the value for yourself by downloading a free trial today.
Chelsea Ellis is a graphic designer and social media manager at Blue Marble Geographics. Her responsibilities range from creating the new button graphics for the redesigned interface of Global Mapper 18 to editing promotional videos; from designing print marketing material to scheduling social media posts. Prior to joining the Blue Marble team, Ellis worked in page layout and graphic design at Maine newspapers, and as a freelance designer and photographer.