Got a Drone? Now What? — Using Global Mapper with Your UAV

Let’s start with a question. How many of you currently own a Segway? Unless you moonlight as a mall cop or run an urban tour company, you probably decided not to jump on that gyroscopically-controlled bandwagon. If the hype that surrounded the release of this ‘revolutionary technology’ was to be believed, we would long since have abandoned our cars, redesigned our cities, and be living much more fulfilling lives. Alas, the reality has fallen a little short.

The emergence and proliferation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Drones, on the other hand, while not accompanied by a cacophony of hyped-up fanfare, promises to have a much more profound impact on our lives. If current speculation is to be believed, within a few short years, the skies overhead will be swarming with delivery drones, traffic monitoring drones, and even people-moving drones.

For those of us in the mapping industry, this eye-in-the-sky technology effectively addresses one of the perennial challenges that we face: where do we get data, and more specifically, where do we get current data? Traditionally, we have depended on often inadequate and outdated public geospatial data archives or expensive commercial sources. With the advent of readily accessible UAV technology, on-demand data is within anyone’s reach.

The rapid growth of UAV ownership has resulted in an interesting dilemma for some would-be pilots. Having purchased the hardware and collected some data, many are often unclear as to what exactly they can do with it? Over the last couple of years, I have attended several UAV-focused tradeshows and a question that I am often asked is, ‘What can I do with Global Mapper?’ The answer: many things.

Initial Flight Planning

Among the freely available online data services in Global Mapper are high-resolution aerial imagery, Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), aviation charts, and topographic maps.

Before hitting the launch button, it is a good idea to virtually reconnoiter the project area. What possible obstructions are in the vicinity, what are the terrain characteristics, are there any nearby buildings or other facilities that might have overflight restrictions, what is the coverage area? These questions and more can be answered by loading the relevant data into Global Mapper and conducting some rudimentary pre-flight analysis. Among the freely available online data services are high-resolution aerial imagery, Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), aviation charts, and topographic maps. Global Mapper’s drawing tools can be used to delineate the extent of the project site to determine coverage area and to draft an initial flight plan to optimize the data capture process. All of this data can be transferred to an iOS or Android device running Global Mapper Mobile to allow field checking of the flight plan parameters.

Geotagged Image Viewing

Images can be loaded into Global Mapper as picture points creating a geographic photo album. Derived from the coordinate values embedded in the image files, the location at which each photo was taken is represented by a camera icon in the map view.

One of the most basic functions of a UAV is taking photographs and as we will discuss below, with sufficient overlap, these images can be processed into a 3D representation of the local area. Before proceeding with this more advanced functionality, the images themselves can be loaded into Global Mapper as picture points creating a geographic photo album. Derived from the coordinate values embedded in the image files, the location at which each photo was taken is represented by a camera icon in the map view. Using Global Mapper’s Feature Info tool, each photo is displayed using the computer’s default image viewer. Viewed in the 3D Viewer, the camera icons will appear above the terrain or ground providing a precise representation of the drone’s altitude when each image was captured.

3D Reconstruction

The functionality of the Pixels to Points tool transforms simple drone-collected image files into a dataset that can be used for countless 3D analysis procedures.

Incorporated into the optional LiDAR Module, beginning with the version 19 release of Global Mapper, the Pixels to Points tool is used to analyze an array of overlapping images to create a 3D representation of the environment. This powerful component identifies recurring patterns of pixels within multiple photographs and employs the basic principles of photogrammetry to determine the three-dimensional structure of the corresponding surfaces. While the underlying technology is extremely complex, as is typical in Global Mapper, the user’s experience is very straightforward. Simply load the images, apply the necessary settings for the camera system, add ground control points if available, click the Run button, and wait while it creates a high-density point cloud and, if required, a 3D model or mesh. The functionality of the Pixels to Points tool transforms simple drone-collected image files into a dataset that can be used for countless 3D analysis procedures.

Orthoimage Creation

A byproduct of the aforementioned point cloud generation process is the option to create an orthoimage. Defined as a raster layer in which each pixel’s coordinates are geographically correct, the orthoimage is generated by gridding the RGB values in the point cloud. Given its inherent accuracy, this 2D imagery layer can be used for precise measurements or as a base layer for digitizing or drawing operations.

DTM creation and Terrain Analysis

Global Mapper can generate a Digital Terrain Model (DTM) from point cloud data.

As mentioned previously, the Pixels to Points-generated point cloud represents the raw material for numerous analysis procedures in Global Mapper. As with any unprocessed dataset, some QA, cleanup, and processing will be required before embarking on any meaningful workflow. Fortunately, the software offers a plethora of editing and filtering options, including noise point removal, spatial cropping, ground point identification, and automatic reclassification. After isolating the points representing bare earth, the gridding tool is employed to create a Digital Terrain Model (DTM), a 3D raster layer that depicts the ground surface. In turn, this terrain layer can be used to create custom contour lines, to calculate volume, to delineate a watershed, to conduct line-of-site analysis, and, if overlaid on a previously created DTM, to identify and measure change over time.

Video Playback

Aside from capturing still images, most UAVs are equipped with the necessary hardware to record video. Beyond simple recreational use, this functionality is useful for building or asset inspection, strategic reconnaissance, forestry inspection, and in countless other situations where a remote perspective is needed. Global Mapper includes an embedded video player that will play this recording while displaying the corresponding position of the UAV in the map window. The determination of position is derived from the per-vertex time stamp recorded in the track file recorded during the flight. After loading this file as a line feature, and associating it with the corresponding video file, the playback is initiated from the Digitizer’s right-click menu.

LiDAR Processing

The Global Mapper LiDAR Module offers a set of tools for identifying, reclassifying, and extracting these features as vector objects.

Not too long ago, it was generally accepted that, due of the size and weight of the required equipment, LiDAR collection could only be carried out using a manned aircraft. This simple fact contributed to the high cost and logistical challenges of the LiDAR collection process. Today, miniaturization of the LiDAR apparatus has reached the point where it is within the payload capacity of many larger drones. Given the limited range of the aircraft, drone-collected LiDAR is only viable for small, localized projects however it does allow frequent re-flying of a project site and is thus ideally suited for change detection. Global Mapper, along with the accompanying LiDAR Module, offers a wide range of tools for processing LiDAR data. As previously mentioned, points can be filtered and edited before creating a surface model for terrain analysis. Compared to photogrammetrically created point cloud data, LiDAR provides a more complete three-dimensional representation of non-ground features such as buildings, powerlines, and trees. The LiDAR Module offers a set of tools for identifying, reclassifying, and extracting these features as vector objects.

Fundamentally, UAVs and maps have much in common. Both are intended to provide a remote, detached perspective of an area of interest and allow us to see spatial distribution and patterns in our data that would not otherwise be detectable. It is understandable, therefore, that one of the primary functions of a drone is to provide data that can be used for creating maps and other spatial datasets. Global Mapper is ideally suited for this type of workflow and it provides an extensive list of tools that can be used by drone operators.


A thirty-year veteran in the field of GIS and mapping, and a lifelong geographer, David McKittrick is currently Outreach and Training Manager at Blue Marble Geographics. A graduate of the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, McKittrick’s experience encompasses many aspects of the geospatial industry, including cartographic production, data management, marketing and sales, as well as software training and implementation services. McKittrick has designed and delivered hundreds of GIS training classes, seminars, and presentations and has authored dozens of articles and papers for numerous business and trade publications.

 

How to Compare Point Clouds Using Global Mapper v21.1

Written by: Mackenzie Mills,  Application Specialist

In many areas of GIS,  change detection can be a powerful analysis tool. Comparing datasets through time can add another dimension to your work as you can visualize and measure how a study area changes. This type of analysis is becoming particularly important as drone mapping and collection of first-hand data are more common. Change detection analysis can also be very useful when looking for natural change in an area, like the impact of a natural disaster or new vegetation growth year to year; or a man-made change, like the progress of construction in an area or deforestation; or change made to the data by previous edits.

In the release of Global Mapper version 21.1, the Compare Clouds tool was introduced to detect change points between overlapping lidar or point cloud layers. Previously in Global Mapper, change detection was only available using the Combine/Compare Terrain Grid tool, which creates a new elevation layer based on the difference in the per-pixel Z-values of the overlapping layers using the subtraction setting.  The output of the new Compare Clouds tool is a layer containing the points that have changed between the input point clouds. 

To use the Compare Cloud tool, start by loading the point clouds you would like to compare into Global Mapper. Select the Compare Could tool from the Lidar Tools toolbar. 

Compare Lidar Point Clouds
Compare Lidar Point Clouds

In the Point Cloud(s) to Compare Against box, select the starting or original point cloud. This is typically the first or earlier pass over an area. The cloud(s) selected in the Point Cloud(s) to Find Changes In box will be compared to the “Point Cloud(s) to Compare Against when the tool is run.

This new tool works to compare point clouds by having the user input a distance to use for comparison. This Minimum Distance Between Point Clouds value allows for a looser or tighter comparison of the clouds. This setting is important when comparing point clouds because they are made up of individual points and not interpolated like a terrain grid. It is unlikely that the point clouds you are looking to compare will contain points in the exact locations, so a threshold (specified in point spacings, meters, or feet) is required for comparison. Any points from the Find Changes In point cloud that do not have a corresponding point in the Compare Against cloud will be considered changes in the area.

When the process runs, those points in the second layer that have been found to have shifted beyond the designated threshold when compared to the original layer will be marked as having changed. After running this process, you will find a new layer added to the workspace containing only the points that have changed.

Points detected to be changed using the Compare Cloud tool in Global Mapper
Points detected to be changed using the Compare Cloud tool in Global Mapper

In the image above, you see an area of rocks where some have been removed between point cloud one and point cloud two, after running the Compare Cloud tool we see the selected (red) areas are the points detected to be changed.

After identifying change in an area using the Compare Clouds tool, you may wish to classify the points detected as changed or delete them to reconcile multiple datasets. Alternatively, you may want to generate gridded layers to show the changed areas and layer these changed grids over the original or use the Compare Against layer.

This powerful new tool speeds up the process of change detection on 3D data by directly comparing two point clouds to find points with significant change. This change detection functionality can be applied in a wide variety of industries including agriculture, forestry, and engineering. Take a look at the latest release of Global Mapper and the Lidar Module to bring this streamlined workflow into your own data analysis.

How to use Global Mapper’s Raster Reclassify tool

Written by Jeff Hatzel, Senior Application Specialist

With the release of Global Mapper v21.1 comes the addition of an exciting new tool, Raster Reclassify. The development of this tool, like so many in Global Mapper®, was heavily driven by requests from our users. The initial release of this tool allows users to modify the pixel values of a palette image. A common use case for this might be to adjust the classes with a landcover file to create a new layer with a simplified set of classes. Let’s look at a more advanced workflow: using Raster Reclassify to adjust the values of an image created from classified lidar.

Hint: If you’d like to learn about this tool in detail, review the Raster Reclassify Knowledge Base page!

Using Lidar Classification Codes to Make a Raster Layer:

If you’re familiar with the Create Elevation Grid tool in Global Mapper, you know that this tool allows you to create a terrain layer based on the elevations within the source point cloud. You may also know that when working with lidar data, this tool allows you to create a grid-based on a variety of lidar attributes and properties, for example, classifications.

Classified lidar data
Classified lidar data (left) was gridded based on its classification code to make an output raster (right).

This resulting file represents multiple lidar classes from the source point cloud. The classes follow the same color scheme used to display lidar by classification. However, it’s possible we may only have an interest in a specific set of classes or an individual class, buildings for example. We’ll address that with Raster Reclassify.

Hint: Take a look at the different Grid Type options in the Create Elevation Grid tool.

Raster Reclassify to Highlight Classes of Interest:

The Raster Reclassify tool (part of the Analysis Menu) allows you to adjust the values of the source layer. In this situation, we want to focus on buildings. We’re going to merge all non-building classes: ground, low, medium, and high vegetation, bridges, powerlines, and water. Buildings will be retained as a unique class.

Raster Reclassify
Raster Reclassify allows you to load the source palette from a reference file. You can choose which classes you want to reclassify, adjusting their description, color, etc.

This tool creates a new output layer within the current Global Mapper workspace. As you can see below, that layer will now only show the newly created classes you outline in the Raster Classification Rules section of the Raster Reclassify tool.

Source file comparison
The source file (left) compared to the reclassified layer (right). The reclassified layer now only shows two classes, based on the rules set in the Raster Reclassify tool.

Hint: Want to display different layers side-by-side in the same workspace as we’ve done in some of the above images? Check out Multiple 2D Map Views!

What’s Next?

Products created by Raster Reclassify can be used in a variety of applications. Some may be final deliverables for reclassified landcover datasets, used to make or adjust clutter grid files, or any other number of possibilities.

How will you use the Raster Reclassify tool?

Keep an eye out in the future for new functionality in this tool, including the ability to reclassify terrain data and non-palette imagery!

How to move your Single User Global Mapper® license in a few easy steps

The day has come, you received a computer upgrade at work or you finally splurged on a new laptop. The excitement and joy of finally having a faster computer with better graphics and a new operating system can quickly be diminished by the laborious task of transferring files and software to the new machine. This blog aims to alleviate some of that headache by walking you through Global Mapper’s single-user license transfer workflow. 

The first thing to do is to check the version number of your installation of Global Mapper. If you have version 20 or 21 you will be able to download the installation files directly from the Blue Marble website to your new machine. If you have version 19 or older you will need to move the installation files manually to the new computer. You’ll also want to ensure your Maintenance and Support (M&S) is still active. If you have questions or concerns about moving your license or the status of your M&S, please contact authorize@bluemarblegeo.com before moving your license.

Once you have checked your version of Global Mapper, navigate to the Help menu at the top of the screen, click “License Manager”, and the window below will open:

Blue Marble License Manager
Blue Marble License Manager

Select “Release” next to the license you would like to remove. A prompt will appear to confirm that you want to move forward. Click the “Yes” button. After the removal process is complete, you should receive a message containing the removal code for your license. This code will also be copied to your computer’s clipboard. To complete the removal, send the removal code to authorize@bluemarblegeo.com for confirmation that your license is no longer active. After the Blue Marble licensing team verifies this information, you will be able to move your license to the new machine.

It is possible that you may not receive a prompt upon removal, but do not worry, you can access it from the C: drive. On most computers, the file can be found in the following folder location: C:\ProgramData\GlobalMapper\GlobalMapper[your version number]. The ProgramData folder is hidden by default in Windows. If you can’t navigate to that directory,  you can view hidden files and folders with the instructions below.

Navigate to the search bar next to the Windows “Start” button and type “hidden files”. This will bring you to the “For Developers” prompt.

For developers window prompt
For developers window prompt

Under the heading “File Explorer”, click the “Show settings” next to “Change settings” to show hidden and system”. The Folder Options window will open, review the options and select “Show hidden files, folders, and drives”, then click the OK button. Please note these instructions are for Windows 10, for instructions on how to access “Hidden Files” in other versions of Windows please visit the Microsoft support page.

Windows File Explorer OptionsCintia Miranda | Projections
Windows File Explorer Options

Once this step is completed, you will be able to locate the Program Data folder on your C: drive. Please attach a copy of your GlobalMapper.lic_removed file in an email to authorize@bluemarblegeo.com.

Global Mapper license location on C Drive
Global Mapper license location on C Drive

The Licensing Team will then verify your license removal and you will be able to move your license to the new machine. Before beginning the licensing process, please remove your computer from all external hardware, including docking stations. Finally, follow the detailed steps to set up and obtain the license in Part I of Global Mapper’s Knowledge Base.

Remember, if you have any questions or run into any problems moving your license, our Licensing Team is available Monday – Friday 8 am – 5 pm Eastern Standard time. They can be reached by phone at 207-622-4622 ex 1146 and by email at authorize@bluemarblegeo.com

Chelsea E | Projections
Rachael Landry is a Blue Marble Geographics Marketing Assistant and an unofficial licensing guru.

What is Blue Marble GeoTalks 2020?

In spring of 2019, Blue Marble Geographics® launched its first online conference, GeoTalks, to replace its user conferences, which had been held at locations around the globe. Not only did the virtual format of the day-long GeoTalks expand accessibility to a wider audience, it also opened the door for more geospatial professionals from all over the world to participate and share their expertise as speakers. In its inaugural event in 2019, GeoTalks had more than 800 registrations. Below is a breakdown and sneak peek of what GeoTalks will include in 2020.

Presentations by professionals from a variety of geospatial industries and backgrounds

At the 2020 GeoTalks, speakers from all over the world and from a wide range of backgrounds will be participating. Here is a peek at who will be presenting this year:

Ben Follett, a Principal Engineering Geologist with WSP, Australia

Ben Follett

Ben Follett  will present on a workflow using Global Mapper® to assess the effects of pipeline construction. This GeoTalks presentation will cover attribute calculation, various digitizing tools, contouring, and illustrating slopes as low as fractions of a degree in order to identify structures that may be affected by the dewatering process in construction.

Walter Payne, a Space Intelligence Analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency USSTRATCOM

Walter Payne

Walter Payne will give a presentation on “An Unexpected Discovery”, in which he will share the role he played in a research project that focused on the Pena de Juaica, a mountain 3,209 meters high, located in the Colombian town of Tobio.

The goals of this research project were to identify carved figures and anthropomorphic forms, and to locate caves for exploration. During this expedition, he used Global Mapper and the Lidar Module’s Pixels to Points® tool to process drone-captured images of the base of Pena de Juaica. The resulting photogrammetric data helped Walter, historian Ashley Cowie, and a team of Ancient Origins explorers discover an “outlier platform” used by the indigenous Muisca people for lunar astronomy.

Jeff Howry, a Research Fellow at the Harvard Semitic Museum

Jeff Howry

Jeff Howry will demonstrate how the application of lidar on two continents reveals distinctly different historic landscapes.

In New England, the pattern of agriculture in the 17th and 18th centuries becomes apparent when imagery of stone walls is analyzed. Following the abandonment of farms beginning in the 1850s, much of the landscape which was previously open land has become reforested with dense hardwood species. Lidar readily presents the stone wall boundaries of the field system used by New England farmers in their land-intensive agricultural practices. In the area that was historic Palestine, sites occupied several thousands of years ago, reveal their major landscape structures through lidar.

Akpata Sylvester Balm Mifueah, a Ph.D. candidate in Geoinformatics and Surveying at University of Nigeria

Akpata Sylvester Balm Mifueah

Akpata Sylvester Balm Mifueah, who also serves as a Project Coordinator with Reddfox on NESP Nigeria, will present on the extreme importance of a healthy infrastructure to maintain safe roads and constant power supply to Nigerians.

Akapata will deliver a presentation on using Global Mapper Mobile®, geodetic principles, remote sensing, and GIS techniques to track and identify road and powerline conditions. He used the mobile app for tracking, arable land types, roads and power transmission lines in Nigeria, and processed and validated the data using remotely sensed images in Global Mapper desktop. The results were coordinates of each tracked point, and a database that shows records of roads and power line conditions.

Rudy VanDrie, a Planning Engineer in Hydrology with the Central Coast Council, Wollongong City Council and Balance Research & Development

Rudy VanDrie

Rudy VanDrie has been working in the flood modelling space since 1987. His GeoTalks 2020 presentation will highlight the benefits of using Global Mapper for flood model development and as used in a real world workflow. Flood modeling is becoming more and more detailed, as experts move away from using fixed grid coarse models and toward flexible meshes with very fine detail, requiring better representative terrain data. Global Mapper has become a standout tool for cleaning and merging data, and formulating the best possible terrain for flood modeling.

Kelsi Schwind, a Coastal and Marine System Sciences student at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Kelsi Schwind

Kelsi is the 2019 winner of the Blue Marble Academic Scholarship, and a Coastal and Marine System Sciences (remote sensing emphasis) student at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Kelsi will present on her research, which integrates structure-from-motion (SfM) data, airborne topobathymetric lidar-derived data, and GIS techniques to assess the impacts of Hurricane Michael on Little St. George Barrier Island off the coast of Apalachicola, Florida.

For more information about the 2020 GeoTalks speaker, check out the Speakers page at bluemarblegeo.com.

Lessons and tips on how to use Global Mapper®

In between presentations, the experts at Blue Marble Geographics demonstrate some of  the latest and lesser-known features of the company’s GIS software, Global Mapper. Using real-world scenarios, they will introduce some to the tools that were added in the recent version 21.1 release as well as several of the software’s more powerful hidden gems.

The latest Blue Marble news and product development updates

Blue Marble Geographics is constantly updating its software. GeoTalks audiences get a behind-the-scenes look at what the company is working on for the next version of Global Mapper, Geographic Calculator®, its software developer toolkits, and online geodetic repository – the GeoCalc Geodetic Registry®.

Registering for GeoTalks is easy

As well as being free and full of high-quality content, GeoTalks presentations can be viewed any time and at any place. All registrants, whether they are able to attend the live event or not, will be provided with access to recordings of all of the presentations after the event is over.

Register for GeoTalks 2020 today to save your seat. Stay tuned to the Blue Marble Geographics website and social media for more details about the March 18, 2020 event.

Register for GeoTalks

What’s new in Global Mapper v21.1?

What we at Blue Marble Geographics® call a “dot release” — Global Mapper® v21.1 — is now available and it comes with new features and improvements. In this blog entry, we list the most significant new features in our accessible and easy-to-use GIS software.

Raster Reclassification tool in Global Mapper v21.1Chelsea E | Projections
The new Raster Reclassification tool in Global Mapper v21.1.

The Raster Reclassification tool

The new Raster Reclassification tool is used to reclassify raster data for land cover analyses. Reclassification may be necessary when raster values need simplification or translation in an analysis. The tool also allows users to simplify information by grouping similar data together, for example, grouping all types of high vegetation together as “forest”.

Other reasons for using the Raster Reclassification tool are to set values to a common scale or to set specific values as “no data” to remove them from the analysis completely.

A built-in, premium access to online Blackbeard Tanuki

With a subscription, users can now access Blackbeard Tanuki’s oil and gas data services, which provides pipeline, well, and lease information. This is valuable data for oil, gas, or mineral investors; oil and gas lease owners looking for neighboring ownership; oil and gas E&P companies looking for land to lease, and landmen seeking a point of departure for oil and gas exploration.

Raster Transparency tool in Global Mapper v21.1
The improved Raster Transparency tool in Global Mapper v21.1.

Improved Raster Transparency tool

This tool allows users to render multiple colors as transparent in raster layers. This function is ideal for hiding non-imagery, background pixels or white, cloud areas in satellite imagery. It can also be used to make certain elevation ranges transparent in a terrain data, perhaps to reveal another data layer underneath.

Improved processing time for Batch Conversion/Reproject tool

The Batch Conversion/Reproject tool has been multi-threaded in Global Mapper v21.1. This means that the batch work is divided between the cores of the CPU. In other words, the batch process in v21.1 is faster because it is using multiple brains instead of one! This speed improvement was added for the many Global Mapper users who batch convert image tiles or lidar tiles to change either the format, projection, or both.

Speed improvements and efficiency improvements

The processing time for the Batch Conversion/Reproject tool has been improved significantly, due to the fact that the process is now multi-threaded. Other aspects of the software that have been made more efficient through multi-threading include the rendering of the 2D map view and the Viewshed Analysis tool.

Additional speed improvements include operations such as rendering large ECW files or creating elevation grids with large gaps to fill.

Download or upgrade your Global Mapper today

We pride ourselves on providing multiple updates each year to keep our software fresh and cutting-edge. Download or upgrade your copy of Global Mapper to version 21.1 today to take advantage of the latest new features.

Download Today!

How to publish and share maps with Global Mapper and MangoMap

Beginning with version 21 of Global Mapper®, users have the option to publish maps directly from the desktop GIS software to the online web mapping service, MangoMap. This functionality is subscription-based and is enabled by activating the MangoMap extension.

MangoMap is a browser-based web mapping service that provides a simple and efficient way to share geospatial data with anyone, on any device. Setting up an online map site through Mango requires no specialized web development skills or expensive servers and the entire process takes only minutes.

This blog entry lists the steps required to publish data from Global Mapper, and customize and share it through MangoMap.

Once users have chosen their export settings and map display options, their map is sent to their MangoMap account where their data and styling are immediately ready for viewing.

Step One: Register a MangoMap account

First things first: In order to publish a map to MangoMap, Global Mapper users have to register a MangoMap account to activate the extension. This is a simple process that involves clicking the MangoMap button in the Global Mapper interface, and setting up an account with their Blue Marble login information.

Once an account is set up, users can begin publishing maps online immediately with a free trial of MangoMap!

MangoMap is ideal for publishing and sharing single-focus maps, not necessarily for maps with several layers of data. It does, however, include a map portal where users can publish a gallery of single-focus maps.

Step Two: Click the MangoMap button to publish

It’s as simple as that.

The MangoMap button in Global Mapper prompts users to name and describe their data, and choose the necessary display settings. Once these settings are defined, users click “OK” and their map is sent to their MangoMap account. The data and styling of their map is immediately ready to be viewed online.

The attributes of a parcel feature are displayed in MangoMap. Users can easily activate tools that best suit the purpose of their data in MangoMap.

Step Three: Customize tools and style settings

In MangoMap’s administration interface, users can choose to activate tools that best suit the purpose of their map. They can bookmark map features to find more easily later, and share specific items with colleagues. They can search by specific attributes, add layers, and turn on Google Street view for an alternative visualization. Users can also customize their maps by adding a logo, or changing the colors to match a brand.

MangoMap’s blog entry on Web Map Customization goes into far more detail on how users can design their maps online.

MangoMap users can share specific map features easily.

Step Four: Define map access settings, and share

Just as users can customize tools in their maps, they can also define their maps’ access settings. Users can make their data public allowing anyone to access; hidden, for anyone with a secret URL; password-protected; or internal, for only authorised users.

Sharing a map is as easy as copying the map’s URL in the web browser and sending it to a colleague. Depending on the access settings, the recipient of the map URL will be prompted to enter a password if the map is password-protected, or to login if the map is internal.

Learn more about map access in the MangoMap help center.

Bridging the gap between desktop and web mapping

Like Global Mapper, MangoMap is designed to be easy and intuitive for both the advanced and novice GIS professional. It integrates seamlessly with Global Mapper, making it the perfect solution for multi-platform map sharing for efficient collaboration.

To learn more about the Global Mapper MangoMap extension, visit bluemarblegeo.com/products/global-mapper-mango.php, and try a free trial by registering a MangoMap account through Global Mapper v21.

10 ways Blue Marble ensures geodetic accuracy behind the scenes for you

The Land Survey Summary tab in Geographic Calculator

When people ask me what the difference is between Blue Marble Geographics’s® applications and other geodetic and GIS software, I often talk about affordability, customer service, and reputation. But sometimes I simply say that we like to tackle the hard stuff — the technical challenges that geospatial professionals face every day.

For a quarter century, we at Blue Marble have been focused on getting things right in mapping, so our customers can consistently rely on our software. We have been “minding the gap”, as our original tagline says, between geodetic accuracy and geospatial data mapping. We do this by offering our highly accurate coordinate conversion and datum transformation software Geographic Calculator®, and by providing access to our extensive geodetic library with GeoCalc® Mode in our GIS software Global Mapper®. Our technology is trusted by small and large Fortune 500 companies around the globe.

But what exactly is that hard stuff?

Perhaps the best way for me to explain these challenges is by providing a top ten list of ways Blue Marble ensures geodetic accuracy for today’s geodesists and GIS professionals.

  1. Coordinate Reference System Information

    If you’re going to “mind the gap”, you must have full access to the geodetic parameters necessary for proper coordinate conversion. This is not simply a coordinate system definition, but the mathematical definition of the components that make up a coordinate reference system. These components — ellipsoids, datums, measure of units, projection, and origin — are available for our users to access and present as needed in all of our software.

    The GeoCalc library of coordinate reference systems and geodetic parameters.
  2. Powerful Spreadsheet Interface

    The Geographic Calculator is known for its Point Database job or tab. This is an Excel-like spreadsheet that enables batch point conversion in multiple ways with a variety of handy data-management tools. It’s an essential way to process point data when translating coordinate systems.

  3. Areas of Use Envelopes

    Blue Marble has been using geometric polygons as area-of-use envelopes in the background of Geographic Calculator, the GeoCalc SDK®, and Global Mapper for years now. They are geographically defined polygons that our software uses behind the scenes to provide users with the correct coordinate system or datum shift for the area of the world that the user is working in. For example, there are systems that are meant for the United States, but never for Europe. So using these area-of-use envelopes, our software can help select the proper coordinate conversion tool for a user’s data. It’s a pretty elegant solution if you ask me.

  4. Workspaces, Jobs and Audit Trails (oh my)

    I always reference the Wizard of Oz when discussing geodesy for two reasons: there tends to be lists of threes all the time, and, well, a lot of GIS folks view this stuff as the magic happening behind the curtain. With that said, workspaces, jobs, and audit trails are just a few of the more prevalent tools available in Geographic Calculator that help replicate the work of users reliably. Users can save workspaces with jobs in them in an organized, clear way, and “audit trails” (log of users’ actions), which is so important in recreating data translation history when issues occur. And, believe me, issues will always occur.

  5. GeoData.XML

    The heir to the throne for GeoCalc.dat, GeoData.XML is our database of geodetic parameters. It is the file that contains all of the coordinate systems, datums, datum shifts, ellipsoids, vertical datums, units, formats, envelopes, and whatever else you need for coordinate conversion. Today, that tool can simply live on a user’s desktop in their copy of Geographic Calculator, hosted internally with a network license of Geographic Calculator, or hosted in the cloud with the GeoCalc Online Registry. The library is the most widely used, quality assured, and tested coordinate tool on the planet.

  6. First Software to Utilize the EPSG Parameter DB

    Blue Marble has worked closely with the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers’ EPSG Parameter Database since it’s inception. We were the first to provide the library in commercial software; to provide tools; to update, and sync to it; and to connect to the online registry version of it. GeoCalc is Gold Certified GIGS compliant and continues to work with the OGP to provide this database to the GIS market.

  7. Deprecation

    Simply put, we embrace the approach to data manipulation called “deprecation”, instead of deletion. Even if a geodetic object was found to be mathematically wrong, our software will flag, retain and properly label that incorrect object in the database for users to access later if needed. This is an essential database management approach that allows users to maintain access to unwanted or inaccurate data to fix or use it. It is a simple yet important concept, and one we have embraced for years.

  8. Administrative Tools

    Working with some of our customers years ago, Blue Marble realized there was a need for administrative tools in Geographic Calculator that allowed GIS managers to limit geodetic data access, and to lock object editing. Simply put, not every user should be able to change the mathematical model of a datum transformation. Also, many users want to see only the datum shifts they are supposed to use, not all of the potential options available across the globe. Geographic Calculator’s administrative tools allow managers to address these challenges by customizing their set up.

  9. Education/Processes

    Data is expensive and often difficult to collect. Without the proper education, organizations can run the risk of corrupting their data; failing to back up data properly; making uneducated guesses about coordinate reference systems, or making other human errors that can result in major problems. Blue Marble provides an applied geodesy course for this very reason. We also provide multiple Global Mapper training courses each year, self-training options, and a team of application specialists for technical support.

  10. GeoCalc Toolbar in Global Mapper

    Lastly and not least there is the ability to bring advanced coordinate referencing into Global Mapper with the GeoCalc toolbar. This toolbar can be enabled if a user has both Geographic Calculator and Global Mapper installed. Users of this tool can set up specific coordinate transformation workflows in Geographic Calculator and share them in Global Mapper. Users can select datum transformations in Global Mapper, if so desired, or they can assign advanced datum transformations to run automatically. This extension also makes all of the advanced coordinate referencing parameters in Geographic Calculator — vertical datum shifts, custom coordinate definitions and more — available to the Global Mapper users.

So there you have it! Ten ways Blue Marble helps you “mind the gap between world and map”. I hope your head is not spinning counter clockwise to the world’s orbit, and that this list comes as a comfort to you. Suffice it to say, we want to help. If you have any questions, please let me know.


Patrick Cunningham

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.

Where is geospatial technology headed in year 2020

It seems that major innovation affecting the GIS industry happens in waves. In my time at Blue Marble Geographics®, I have seen the advent of LiDAR in everyday GIS, the acquisition and subsequent public release of Google Earth, the growth of open source GIS, and the proliferation of smartphones, which put GPS in the hands of virtually everyone. We are currently riding two separate waves; one for enterprise GIS and one for drone or UAV-data collecting and processing.

Enterprise GIS: data sharing and accessibility

By “enterprise GIS” we mean the ability to share not only GIS data easily and fluidly across an organization but also the ability for those users to conduct analysis on that data even if GIS is outside of their area of expertise. There are large, expensive, “stack”-focused commercial solutions available for this. However, thanks to Google, AWS, and other easy-to-use free or low-cost web GIS tools, products like Global Mapper® are able to enable that process relatively seamlessly with an everyday GIS perspective.

Enterprise GIS will continue to expand as GIS and general software users and managers innovate with the available toolsets they have access to. Many users are seeing that this does not have to be an expensive, overbearing process thanks to the surge in open source GIS and cell phone technology.

A point cloud generated from 3D mesh of 192 drone-captured images.

Drone-captured imagery and data processing

For the GIS analyst or professional surveyor, the more likely place for innovation from technology will be on the drone or UAV data collecting and processing side.

The advent of low-cost drones has been a boon to the average surveyor over the past years. Many surveyors dove headfirst into the process of becoming an FAA certified pilot so they could expand their business or add value to their company by collecting high-resolution imagery with drones. The improvements in the ability of GIS software like Global Mapper and Pix4D to process this imagery into derivative products such as point clouds, orthoimages, and meshes has created a great symbiotic relationship between user and vendor. These GIS professionals are pushing vendors to innovate their software solutions far beyond 2D GIS. It was not that long ago that the concept of automatically processing raster data into vectors was a pipe dream. … Now, that is yesterday.

This area of GIS is enabling the everyday GIS professional to collect better, more compelling data in ways they could never afford to dream of just a few years ago. 2020 will see more ways to process and output various data products related to this area. Look for improvements in 3D products and in the accuracy of data sets in positioning and resolution as well.

Upcoming changes to NATRF 2022

Speaking of accuracy, surveyors and GIS professionals will be able to begin the process of converting legacy data and enabling new data collection to be compliant with NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey’s upcoming change to NATRF 2022.

This new spatial reference frame will replace NAD83 and NAVD88 changing from a focus on latitude, longitude and height in coordinate reference frames (aka coordinate systems to many users) to a focus on scale, gravity and orientation, and their time variations. This new system will reduce errors and increase the accuracy of geospatial data. GIS analysts’ and surveyors’ unique knowledge and skill with highly accurate geospatial data processing will be tested, and required, in order to make compliant datasets. Internationally we will see more government entities embrace time-dependent datum transformation models as we are able to more readily deal with local shifts in the Earth’s surface and makeup.

Accurate data translation is not going away but will silently continue to remain important in the background of everyday GIS. It will be interesting to see how successfully the experts enable the novices to engage in GIS while retaining its underlying scientific power in 2020.

 

Blue Marble’s academic programs: GIS software for students

heat map of Maine
A heat map of Maine shows the clustering of communication towers in the state.

Each user of Global Mapper® has their own story about how they began using the application. For me, and many other young GIS professionals, exposure to Global Mapper came at a critical time in my career — while I was learning the core GIS concepts in college.

Blue Marble Geographics® offers academic programs, which include free software licenses for institutes of higher education in the U.S. and Canada; a free curriculum with lesson plans and data; and an opportunity to apply for a scholarship.

Image Rectification
A historical map is rectified to the recent open street map of Central Park.
The Image Swipe tool in Global Mapper reveals the accuracy of the rectification process.

Blue Marble’s academic programs introduce Global Mapper and GIS concepts

My exposure came through the academic curriculum or labs that Blue Marble Geographics provided to my university. These labs cover workflows that range from an introduction to the principles of GIS to working with different types of data including LiDAR. While many GIS terms can sound intimidating to a new user, the academic labs are a great way to introduce both Global Mapper and basic GIS concepts in the classroom. As a student, these labs allowed me to get comfortable with the tools and processes in the application by following step-by-step guidelines supplemented with images. There wasn’t a workflow in the six sections that I couldn’t complete, which was certainly a confidence booster to a student taking an “Intro to GIS” course.

I still remember many of the workflows that were covered in the labs. The Georeferencing tool and Heat Map analysis particularly stood out to me. They were not only easy to understand but educational. I was able to learn and apply the concepts of raster processing and rectification in real-time. Due to the user-friendly interface of Global Mapper, I could focus on learning GIS concepts instead of spending my time struggling to navigate within the application.

Another important aspect of these academic labs that may be overlooked is the opportunity to take what was covered in each section and apply them to other situations. At the end of each academic lab, there is a final exercise covering the important concepts, and then gives students basic instructions and data to complete a similar task using different data. For example, in section 1 the final exercise has students take a shapefile of hospital points, along with Maine town polygons and asks to show the distribution of hospitals within each town in Maine. After completing the exercise, I felt confident taking that data and GIS concepts I learned to produce a final product representing that distribution.

LiDAR data before (on left) and after (on right) point reclassification using Global Mapper.

Blue Marble’s Academic Labs Are Constantly Evolving

Blue Marble’s academic labs are constantly evolving with every version of Global Mapper. Many of the updates made to the software were initiated by student feedback. The students from the University of Maine, including myself, have been compiling comments about what they like in the application and what they would like to see changed. These comments have changed throughout the years, as many students using Global Mapper before Version 18 mainly noted that the look and feel was too ‘retro’ and that an updated user interface would be beneficial to Global Mapper. I remember saying the same thing, but when Version 18 was released with a modern and inviting interface, I knew that students would appreciate the change. When I worked at Blue Marble Geographics and updated the academic labs to match Version 19, I considered many of the students’ comments and provided more explanation as to why certain steps are needed. Students also had great suggestions about future tools that should be added to Global Mapper, or changes that would benefit the application which I brought to the Blue Marble developers to consider. Blue Marble strives to have a large portion of its development be user-driven, which also includes students.

A point cloud generated from a 3D mesh of a landfill using the Pixels to Points tool for photogrammetric point cloud processing.

Learn more about the Global Mapper academic labs in a webinar

With the latest release of Global Mapper v21, the academic labs now include more lessons and data for advanced point cloud processing, including the Pixels to Points® tool for generating point clouds from drone- or UAV-captured images. There will be a live webinar on January 8, 2020, that will explain the lab about photogrammetric point cloud processing in more detail. Folks who are interested in the webinar can register here: http://bit.ly/webinar-gm-academic

Blue Marble’s academic labs are a great way for students to learn GIS concepts while exploring an easy-to-use GIS application. These labs helped me begin my career in the GIS industry and can do the same for you or your students. If you have any questions regarding the academic lab license program or the academic labs, please email orders@bluemarblegeo.com.

Register for the Webinar