In a world that is packed full of things, places, and events it can be hard to make time to give back to your community. For the last two years, Blue Marble has given employees the opportunity to donate their time to Good Shepherd food bank a few times a year during the work day, making it easier to give back to the local community in a meaningful way.
However, Blue Marble has some employees who make the time to volunteer outside of work, and this month’s newsletter has a new feature: Volunteer Spotlight. This month we are highlighting the achievements of Danielle Caron.
Danielle Caron has been part of the Blue Marble team for the last 11 years and is the Operations Manager for the company. If you are visiting the BMG headquarters, you are likely to see her touching base with employees and making sure everything is running smoothly. Outside of work, Danielle has been a Den Leader with a local chapter of the Boy Scouts of America for the last four years. This was not a role she originally saw herself taking on, but when her son was not interested in playing sports the Boy Scouts offered an excellent alternative for him and for her.
Danielle transitioned into the role of Den Leader shortly after her son joined. Over the last four years, she has worked with her Scouts to learn basic household repair, create a grocery budget, as well as going camping and learning to build a fire.
In Scouting, boys and girls start with their best right now selves and grow into their very best future selves. It’s fun, hands-on learning and achievement that puts kids in the middle of the action and prepares them for today – and for life – Boy Scouts of America.
Being a den leader offers Danielle new challenges year after year. “I didn’t volunteer because it was easy. I wanted to really help and it was challenging to dive into a well known long-time established organization like this with 14 ten-year- old boys. Oh, of course the opportunity to enrich children’s lives and see my son grow blah blah blah.” She says with a laugh.
If you are interested in supporting the Boy Scouts look out for the famous Popcorn fundraiser that is held every year. Or you can donate through the link below:
Danielle is quick to point out that with official approval, “The best donation is your time. Cub scouts are always looking for people to teach new skills, lead adventures, be a den leader, charter a troop at your office or support a scout directly. Get involved with the kids. At any level every chance you get. They are our future employees, family members, leaders and inventors. It can be a lot of fun.”
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!
If you have been watching TV, listening to the radio, or gone to a store, you know it’s that time of year again … Have you thoughtfully picked out all your gifts? No? Well don’t worry we have the gifts for you and all of your family members!
For the punny dad or mom in your life:
For the misunderstood rebel :
For the one searching for the truth:
For the one who hates t-shirts, but loves GIS & software:
Rachael Landry is one of Blue Marble’s license gurus on the official Sales Support team. She is one of the people you are most likely to work with when you call or email our office, and she is always ready to answer your questions.
Please send all your fan mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Welcome to summer! The heat is here and so is the Blue Marble Emporium. We are celebrating our 25th summer as a company and we have some merchandise for our fans! From hitting the beach to hitting the streets we have the t- shirts for you. Our new top five shirts will provide you with fashion tips that will Hundo P* improve your summer!
Are you off to the lake? Well we have the look for you!
Simply add a fedora, dark glasses, and compass to complete the look!
Did you forget the sunscreen? Cover up in style!
A scarf and your phone or tablet put a twist on this classic look.
Are you basically 30? So are we! Here is the perfect outfit to stay home in!
Just pair it with:
Need a little California style?
Make this look your own, but be on the lookout for these two sporting similar t-shirts on the streets of San Diego!
Disclaimer: Wearing a shirt from the Blue Marble Emporium may not actually make you look like the models in this article.
*Hundo P – One hundred percent sure of something
*This article was written by a millennial.
Rachael Landry is one of Blue Marble’s license gurus on the official Sales Support team. She is one of the people you are most likely to work with when you call or email our office, and she is always ready to answer your questions.
Please send all your fan mail to email@example.com.
Between attending geospatial conferences and conducting Global Mapper training, the Blue Marble team does a fair amount of traveling around the world throughout the year. April was an especially busy month with eight members of our staff out of the office on business trips. When a team members returns, they usually write a report on the business aspects of their trip: which customers they connected with; the success of a training class; or what new potential sales leads they uncovered. What the report usually doesn’t include is what they did for fun during their down time.
In this blog entry, we hear from team members who traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Amsterdam, Malta, and New Orleans, and learn a little bit about what goes on after hours on a Blue Marble business trip.
Jeff & Myles go to Australia:
Applications Specialist, Jeff Hatzel and Reseller Account Manager, Myles Labonte traveled to Australia and New Zealand for the GeoSmart Asia’18 & Locate 18 Geospatial Conference, and to conduct two Global Mapper training courses.
“After nearly 25 hours of travel, Myles and I hit the ground running with a three day conference and a public Global Mapper training class in Adelaide. Adelaide was a great city to visit and is walkable and very accessible. I ate all sorts of great food and sampled some local beers and wines. We visited a local conservation park to see and feed some local wildlife, and even went for a swim at the beach. The unseasonably warm heatwave left us a bit surprised at the chilly ocean temperatures!
Once our time in Adelaide came to an end, I had a relatively short flight over to Auckland, New Zealand for a training course with the New Zealand Department of Defense. Auckland is another wonderful city to visit. Situated right on the ocean, it is full of restaurants, shops, and offers many activities. Everyone I met said I had to go tramping!?!
It turns out tramping is a term used for hiking, which is much more in line with my interests! I visited two small islands just off the coast which, were almost visible from my hotel. Rangitoto is a relatively young volcanic island covered in thick forest, whereas Motutapu is an older island; grassy and open to agriculture. The two sitting side-by-side are a great contrast and make for a beautiful tramp …or hike! Before my evening flight home, I spent the day exploring Piha Beach, which is covered in black sand, large rocks, and forested cliffs!
This trip allowed us to meet one of our largest user bases; getting to know our users and their local industry first hand. We were fortunate to have a moment of free time to explore a bit of what the cities and regions had to offer too!”
Kat & Danielle go to New Orleans:
Applications Specialist, Katrina Schweikert and Operations Manager, Danielle Caron flew to New Orleans, Louisiana, for the American Association of Geographers’ Annual Meeting.
“It was great fun to see 7,000 geographers stumbling into a jazz festival. But we didn’t need to go too far away from the hotel to see the heart of New Orleans — from bustling streets to a quiet garden patio oasis. I think my favorite part was exploring the iconic and historic verandas on the quieter residential streets just outside of the main thoroughfare. We also had some excellent food, especially seafood. We were a bit surprised at the amount of advertising for Maine lobster.
We also got to catch part of a jazz festival that was going on nearby. We saw some impressive boats in the river where the decks appeared to be at waist level as we looked out.
Then, of course, we got to do a bit of shopping for some masquerade masks and beignet mix to bring a bit of New Orleans back home.”
Patrick & Sam go to Amsterdam:
Blue Marble President, Patrick Cunningham and Product Manager, Sam Knight traveled to Amsterdam for the Commercial UAV Europe Conference.
“Amsterdam ranks high on the list of the worlds iconic cities and there is no better time to visit than in spring. The weather is mild, the summer crowds have not yet arrived and the flowers are blooming. We were in town for the Commercial UAV Conference and to visit some of our key clients in the area. The conference was a resounding success with Global Mapper’s new Pixels-to-Points tool receiving a lot of accolades from the conference delegates.
Our hotel was the Hilton Amsterdam, which is famous for being the location of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-Ins for Peace demonstration. Most mornings began with a run in in Vondelpark, in the heart of Amsterdam near the museum district. A great way to start the day.
Amsterdam is a walkable city and Sam and I decided to forgo motorized transport and travel the mile or so to and from the conference venue on foot. This gave us an opportunity to see the city up close and personal, with its unique architecture, weird road signs, proliferation of bicycles, and, of course, expansive flower beds.”
David goes to Malta:
Senior Applications Specialist, David McKittrick flew solo to Malta for a Global Mapper training class.
“Of all of the far-flung locations in which we have conducted Global Mapper training classes, Malta is arguably the most alluring. This tiny cluster of limestone islands situated in the central Mediterranean between Italy and Tunisia, has a long and colorful history, with the legacy of each successive occupying force woven into the cultural fabric of the archipelago.
The five-day training class was delivered at the request of the Maltese Government Planning Authority in the capital city of Valletta. Covering all aspects of Global Mapper and the LiDAR module, the course provided hands-on instruction focusing on the Authority’s specific needs and requirements. Being a small country, the Maltese GIS data administration has been able to collect and process high quality data for the entire nation and we were able to integrate some of their local datasets into the class.
After hours, there was plenty of time to explore the environs of Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Covering less than one square kilometer, this historic walled city is rich with cultural landmarks, medieval architecture, quiet parks, and stunning vistas. At dinner time, the cultural melting pot became even more evident with Middle Eastern, North African, and Southern European influences creating unique dining options. Because the British were the last occupying power to leave the island before its independence in 1964, it is even possible to eat fish and chips with a pint of real ale while sitting next to a gleaming red telephone box. Just like London. Except for the weather, of course!”
Blue Marble is Hiring!
Do you want to join the Blue Marble team and potentially travel for work? Blue Marble has a few job openings on their website.
In the fall of 2017, Blue Marble took the fashion world by storm, with the release of GIS themed T shirts. To our surprise we were not invited to New York’s Fashion Week … (but to be fair we didn’t know it was Fashion Week until 10 minutes ago). Nonetheless we are offended, in response we are going full buzzfeed by releasing a top five list of our best tee shirts.
1. Hipster Geographer
2. The lesser known Fox series
4. For those days when you can’t even
5. For when you just want to Flatten the world
Obviously the fashion elite are missing out on the wonder that is the Blue Marble Tee shirt line. You don’t have to be like them, because all of these and more are available right now!
Global Mapper’s 3D functionality has been on the rise over the last couple of years. One of the more creative improvements was the addition of 3D point styles. They allow users to pick from a library of 3D models, and place them as points for better visual representation of their data. The 3D point styles can be placed individually, assigned to an existing feature type, or extracted from LiDAR. The point style options range from trees to push pins, and more are being added as updates roll out. The creation of the 3D models used in the library is a multi-step process, with plenty of scope for creativity.
Technical Considerations When Designing 3D Models in Global Mapper
Global Mapper is a Geographic Information Systems program that is embracing the new 3D age, but its first concern is always the accurate representation of large quantities of data. The unique context of its 3D engine raises some considerations that need to be addressed when creating each 3D asset. The most pertinent issue is the amount of models that need to be displayed on screen at once. In order to mitigate lag, all models made for Global Mapper are limited to five hundred polygons or less, and they are unable to take advantage of Alpha mapping or Normal mapping. This creates a challenge for the artist to produce a model that is both within the guidelines of the program, and also universally readable as the object it represents. In the future, Global Mapper’s 3D model rendering capabilities will be improved as we continue to add more and more 3D functionality.
3D Model Creation Process in Global Mapper
The first step to making any 3D point style is finding a need to fulfill. Many of the models are based on existing 2D styles — some were requested, while others were added to enhance our fun factor. Examples of the process are shown below using the newest model, Snowy the snowperson.
The creative process begins on paper, the model is sketched out. This allows the artist to plan the design, and get a rough estimate of the polygon count. The actual 3D work is done in a program called 3ds Max, a 3D modeling application from Autodesk.
First the model is created with the polygon count carefully considered. Each individual piece is modeled separately and aligned to fit together. Then the mesh is unified, creating one object. After the model is finished, the mesh needs to be unwrapped, which is done directly in 3ds Max.
Unwrapping is the process of creating a flat representation of the 3D model on a 2D plane, called a UVW map. The model is broken up into sections for easy texturing, minimal stretching, and to hide the seam where the texture edges meet. The snowperson in this example was broken down into nine UV shells. The orange nose is four identical shells perfectly overlapped, sharing the same material image.
When unwrapping a model, a checkered pattern is applied to properly display the texture mapping, allowing the artist to manipulate the shells and reduce distortion. The nine UV shells of Snowy share a single 1024×1024 PNG image created in Adobe Photoshop.
After the texture is created, it is applied to the model in 3ds Max using the material editor. The first application is often not perfect, so the material is created using the PSD file directly from Photoshop. Using the PSD makes adjusting the texture easier, because saving the Photoshop file automatically updates the material in 3ds Max. When the texture image is completed, it’s added to the material editor as a PNG, and the model is exported as an OBJ file. In the accompanying image you can see two identical materials, one is the PSD for editing, and the other is the final PNG.
When the model is exported as an OBJ, it then can be imported into Global Mapper and exported as a Global Mapper Package file to be added to the shipped 3D point style list.
Stephanie Martini is a Quality Assurance Technician and 3D artist at Blue Marble Geographics. She is lead QA for the Global Mapper 3D Viewer, and creates all 3D assets used in Global Mapper. Prior to joining Blue Marble in 2014, Martini spent four years training for game art and design, and got her BA from Alfred University in New York. She aspires to live long enough to have her consciousness downloaded to a computer, and join her mind with the AI that will inevitably control our world.
If you are a fan of Global Mapper and Blue Marble Geographics you are a fan of affordable technology. Our products are well-known for providing reliable and powerful tools for GIS and geodetics data processing and analysis. You might not consider access to the internet to be an important issue when it comes to accessing or even using our products, but it is essential.
If you think about it, most of our customers use the web to research our products, watch video tutorials, download the software, activate a license, or even simply follow our social media channels to keep up-to-date on the latest news. Unequivocally, the main way our customers interact with us is online. From emailing us to web-based meetings, from researching our products to purchasing them, from downloading to participating in training, a large part of the customer experience is over the Internet. We benefit from the fact that, along with our customers, we have fair and equal access to consistent internet speed without having to pay a premium price. The availability of fast and reliable internet access is not only essential for our business processes, it is also a critical requirement of much of the GIS technology embedded in our applications.
One of the most popular features of Global Mapper is the online data access tool. Global Mapper offers streaming access to a vast library of maps and data layers of all types, many with full global coverage. This list is continually being expanded and updated and recently we added online data services from all 50 states in the U.S. and several Canadian provinces. If net neutrality in the U.S. is not protected, access to these datasets will almost definitely suffer from slower bandwidth in the future. Even if Blue Marble could afford to provide fast internet for our consumption of these services, we cannot possibly cover the cost of our customers’ access or that of the hosts of these data services.
In the past couple of years, Blue Marble has proudly introduced some new cloud-based software offerings. We now host the GeoCalc coordinate system library on Amazon as a “geodetic registry” service. This past year we added read and write access to Amazon cloud data stores in the Global Mapper desktop. And recently we announced the release of Global Mapper SDK on Amazon as well. We have plans for expanding our cloud-based offerings but what will the future look like for these services under a pay per use bandwidth model?
Certainly companies like Amazon have the ability to negotiate deals with internet service providers, but that will not account for all aspects of the cloud transaction process. There is no way a state or public entity that is hosting spatial data, including Blue Marble’s home state of Maine, can afford to pay for fair and equal bandwidth. There are many, many government-hosted mapping data sources that will suffer under the new model but most important to those fans of Blue Marble is the fact that a small company like ours will most definitely be disproportionately impacted by increased bandwidth costs.
The dominant software company in the GIS industry makes a billion dollars a year in revenue and they will certainly be able to afford increased bandwidth costs, however the GIS sector is full of small companies like Blue Marble. Loyal and dedicated GIS professionals who support the “little guy” and who do not want a GIS software industry that is dominated by just one offering, should be very concerned. And what about users of open source GIS technology? Without any financial clout, developers and users of open source tools will likely see a significant impediment to the use of their technology. This is where a lack of net neutrality will most likely have its biggest impact. Established, well-financed companies will more likely be able to maintain optimal access to their products and services but new players and new technology offerings will not. The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will ensure that their paying customers have good access to Twitter and Facebook as they know that there is a demand for it. But what about innovation? What about new technologies? Those entities are likely to suffer by only being able to afford the “slow lane” in the bandwidth marketplace that will develop.
Finally, it is worth considering what other countries have done about this issue. Canada, Europe, most of South America, India and Japan have all taken steps to protect net neutrality. The recent ruling by the FCC to eliminate Net Neutrality protections in the U.S. is not only unfair to small business but is out of step with the rest of the world.
So what can we collectively do about this? I appeal to all U.S.-based customers of Blue Marble and all members of the GIS community to take a moment to email your elected representatives and explain to them why they need to work to reverse the decision of the FCC. Even if you are not in the U.S., let your voice be heard. This is not about political affiliation. This is about technology and innovation. The danger is that much of the public does not fully appreciate the widespread impact of this ruling. You do. Your voice must be heard. The message should be clear, reverse the FCC ruling immediately and protect fair and equal access to the Internet. I will be sending this to my representatives, I hope you do too. Thank you for taking action today. And I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season.
President | Blue Marble Geographics
Over the past few months, the Blue Marble team has taken on the challenge of collecting drone imagery of our property for testing exciting new features coming soon to Global Mapper. As we began to step into the fairly new commercial UAV field, we realized that there are few assumptions we can make. First of all, there is a learning curve that comes with simply flying a drone to take pictures or collect imagery. There are also a number of legal hurdles, safety concerns, and practical challenges to consider. We needed guidance as we began this initiative, from which we learned a few important lessons.
Drone Flight Concerns and Considerations
Though it appears to be a relatively simple technical challenge, flying a drone has legal and safety considerations that were readily apparent to us but may not be common knowledge. Our first concern was that the Blue Marble headquarters are only about a mile and half, as the crow (or should I say UAV) flies, from the Augusta State Airport. Small planes fly overhead frequently and quite low at times. We were not sure if our building was located near banned airspace. Our second concern was that our property abuts the Hall-Dale elementary school playground. A location that is full of children three or four times a day during business hours. What if we crashed in the school yard while children were at recess? What a PR nightmare.
These concerns about the airport and school property were enough to stall us from simply buying or building a drone, and prompted us to seek guidance. Fortunately for us, the University of Maine at Augusta offers an unmanned aerial vehicle training course taught by certified pilots. A quick call to one of the faculty members for more information resulted in the gentlemen visiting our offices to conduct some test flights and to share a bit of their knowledge with us. We learned a great deal even from our first test.
Setting Up the Drone for Flight
Certified pilots Dan Leclair and Greg Gilda joined us at our office on a beautiful, clear and wind-free day in early October. They confirmed that we could fly over our property with some stipulations, despite our location near a commercial airport. As a precaution, the gentlemen brought with them a hand-held radio to monitor pilot communication in the area as we set up our flight path. They also reassured us that there was little chance of the drone flying off of our property during school recess, since the drone would be programmed and flown on autopilot. Dan and Greg shared a litany of information about how the drones now have homing devices, automatically avoid collisions with structures, and fly on a pre-programmed flight pattern. If, for some reason, it did fly over school property, we could manually fly it back. We also learned that the drone must stay within our view to remain in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation, which was no problem. We weren’t flying a large area anyway.
As we chose and programmed the drone flight path with a laptop, the pilots focused on a very common issue for us GIS folks — proper elevation above ground. Since we are located in the descent path of planes landing at the airport, we needed to keep the drone relatively low to avoid any potential, and of course unwanted, collisions with an aircraft. We decided that we would fly at 100 feet above ground on a path that was 1,793 feet long and would take about 3 minutes.
The software the pilots used had some short comings in that the user had to manually select points for the back-and-forth flight path we wanted. As a software guy, this seemed tedious. I would rather draw a quick polygon or box around my area of interest and have that converted to a flight pattern. Perhaps that could be a new feature for Global Mapper Mobile in the future? In this case, our area of interest was our building, so it did not take long to manually designate the flight pattern by selecting waypoints for the drone to fly back and forth. We also set up the drone camera for the light conditions, and programmed it to capture an image every two seconds during the flight. One practical lesson we learned was that a good staging area for the laptop is preferable on a sunny day. We used the back of an SUV for the shade, so we could see the laptop screen and comfortably program the software.
After a bit of work we were ready to fly.
Flying the Drone and Collecting Data
We set the drone on a circular landing pad made of nylon near the back of our property. Greg attached the rotor blades, very carefully I might add. The blades attach rather easily to the quad copter by snapping into place. Dan explained that this step was done before turning the drone on, saying something to the effect of “you don’t want to lose a finger”.
Once the UAV was ready to fly we all stepped back. Dan launched it into the air with the touch of a button or two, and the drone began its pre-programmed flight path. For those experienced pilots, you might notice that we did not discuss ground control. More on that in a later blog entry, I suppose, but these early tests were not including that. The flight went seamlessly and Dan only took over manual control as he brought the drone in for a landing — a personal preference of his.
Everything seemed to progress well but we quickly learned that the drone ended up capturing only video (see below) and not still photography. A few more attempts later, we sadly learned that we would not be able to collect still imagery that day. Apparently there was some incompatibility with the flight planning software and the drone. Not to fear, they agreed to return another day after a software update to collect the imagery. So perhaps the most important lesson of the day was that, despite the best laid plans of mice and men, things do not always go as planned with drone data collection. If you’re interested in learning some more about the foils and follies of drone data collection visit this handy resource: http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/
We’ll have more to share with you on this process and, of course, what we are doing with the data soon.
Patrick Cunningham is the President of Blue Marble Geographics. He has two decades of experience in software development, marketing, sales, consulting, and project management. Under his leadership, Blue Marble has become the world leader in coordinate conversion software (the Geographic Calculator) and low cost GIS software with the 2011 acquisition of Global Mapper. Cunningham is Chair of the Maine GIS Users Group, a state appointed member of the Maine Geolibrary Board, a member of the NEURISA board, a GISP and holds a masters in sociology from the University of New Hampshire.