Top 5 new features of Blue Marble’s advanced point cloud processing, photogrammetry, and drone mapping software the LiDAR Module®

Over the past few years, Blue Marble Geographics®’ advanced point cloud processing tool has developed into a professional photogrammetry and drone-mapping software. The latest version of the Global Mapper LiDAR Module comes with several enhancements, many of which are to the Pixels-to-Points tool for generating point clouds and 3D meshes from drone-captured images.

Here are the top 5 new features of Blue Marble’s Global Mapper LiDAR Module:


With the new point cloud classification for pole-like objects, users can define the characteristics of the poles they would like to see classified. In the above example, the threshold for the pole classification includes the flag on these flag poles.

1. Automatic point cloud classification of pole-like objects

Manually classifying point cloud data can be time-consuming and tedious. This is why the Global Mapper LiDAR Module comes with automatic point cloud classification tools for points representing ground, buildings, vegetation, noise, powerlines, and most recently added poles.

The new pole classification tool identifies and classifies points of pole-like objects, such as signs, lamp-posts, utility poles, basketball hoops, and other cylindrical features.

With this tool, users can define the characteristics of the poles they would like to see classified. For example, they can define the minimum height and number of points per pole. They can also define a “pole-like” threshold, allowing for either rigid or relaxed definitions of a pole. For instance, a simple post would typically have a pole-like threshold of 90 – 100%, whereas some straight trees may have a pole-like threshold of 35 – 40%.


Users can either automatically mask images by selecting by color, or by manually drawing a selection in the Pixels-to-Points tool of the Global Mapper LiDAR Module v21.

2. Photo masking in the photogrammetric tool Pixels-to-Points for eliminating unwanted backgrounds or data from images

Not all image-data is ideal or necessary in photogrammetrically generated point clouds. This is why an option for photo masking was introduced to the Pixels-to-Points tool in version 21 of the Global Mapper LiDAR Module. Masking allows users to cut out unwanted areas from images, such as swaths of data that tend to not reconstruct well in a point cloud, like sky or water. It also allows users to crop their data down to focus on specific interest areas, which also shortens the point cloud generation process.


Ground-coverage area polygons in the Global Mapper LiDAR Module
The latest version of the Global Mapper LiDAR Module’s Pixels-to-Point tool displays the ground extent of each input photo to help users visualize the overlap of adjacent selected images.

3. Ground coverage polygons for showing the approximate ground coverage of drone-captured photos

Photogrammetrically generated point clouds can require hundreds of drone-captured images. To make it easier to manage and visualize the ground-coverage area of each photo, the latest version of the Global Mapper LiDAR Module’s Pixels-to-Points tool displays the ground extent of each input photo. Displaying these coverage-area polygons can also help users visualize the overlap of adjacent selected images.


Importing external files for high-accuracy positioning of orthoimages and point clouds
The latest version of the LiDAR Module allows users who have high-accuracy positioning in their orthoimages and point clouds to overwrite the initial geotag information that comes with their drone-captured images.

4. Additional support for importing accurate GPS information from external text files

In the latest version of the LiDAR Module, users can update the image-capture location — EXIF information — from a text file. This allows users who have high-accuracy positioning in their orthoimages and point clouds — such as PPK — the ability to overwrite the initial geotag information that comes with their drone-captured images. This is a valuable feature for surveyors who need highly accurate photogrammetric point clouds or meshes.


Displaying drone-captured images that contain common ground control points
When a single image is selected, the Pixels-to-Points tool automatically suggests and highlights all image file names that may contain common ground control points.

5. Identification of images that contain selected ground control points based on their location

Another improvement to the Pixels-to-Points tool is the ability to see images that contain the same ground control points. When a single image is selected, the tool automatically suggests and highlights all image file names that may contain common ground control points. This makes selecting images based on location much easier and faster.


Accessible photogrammetry and point cloud processing software

Most of the improvements to the latest release of the Global Mapper LiDAR Module are to the photogrammetric point cloud generation tool Pixels-to-Points. This functionality allows GIS professionals easier access to point cloud data as drones and cameras become more affordable.

To try the Pixels-to-Points tool and the other powerful tools that come with the Global Mapper LiDAR Module, request a free two-week trial after downloading Global Mapper® here.

What is an SDK? Using the Global Mapper SDK in third-party software and extensions

“SDK” stands for Software Development Kit. It’s an installable package of software development tools that enables programmers and engineers to create applications and extensions. In other words, software developers use SDKs like car mechanics use car parts. Mechanics don’t reinvent the brakes, axle, or transmission when they build a car. They buy the parts and put the car together.

When software developers want to add a certain functionality to their application, they don’t necessarily need to build everything from scratch. Instead, they might be able to use an SDK that offers the functionality they need. To make development easier and faster, SDKs are often packaged with other programs for translating code, testing, and debugging.

Blue Marble Geographics® offers SDKs that include the functionality of most of its GIS and geodetics applications to assist developers with their projects. In this blog entry, we’ll take a look at two user-case examples involving the Global Mapper® SDK: one in which the kit was used within the third-party software WindSim; and another in which a custom Global Mapper extension was created for BGC Engineering’s cloud-based platform.

But first, a little information on Global Mapper

Global Mapper is Blue Marble’s all-in-one geographic information system (GIS) software. It is designed for analyzing geographic information, making maps, visualizing 3D and point cloud data, generating and editing digital terrain models, and managing other geographic information. It’s used in a broad range of industries — ranging from military and defense to natural resources management — for countless purposes.

With every release of Blue Marble desktop software, there is an update to the accompanying SDK. The latest releases of the Global Mapper SDK and LiDAR Module® SDK, for example, incorporate several enhancements from the recent version 21 releases. A major addition to the LiDAR Module SDK is the ability to leverage the LiDAR Module’s photogrammetric tool — Pixels-to-Points® — for generating point clouds from drone or UAV images.

So, as you can imagine, the Blue Marble SDKs allow for infinite possibilities.


3D model of the wind conditions of an area
This illustration displays the wind speed over an area of turbines. The red colored wind turbines produce the highest amount of energy. The yellow and white turbines produce only half of that energy.

WindSim: Extracting elevation and vegetation data with the Global Mapper SDK

WindSim is a wind energy software that uses computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to optimize the placement of wind turbines for maximum energy production and profitability. The application provides a fast and easy way to simulate and assess the local wind conditions of prospective sites for wind-energy development.

3D model for calculating wind conditions
To determine local wind conditions, WindSim uses CFD and 3D numerical models that have been discretized into millions of cells. Behind these 3D models is the elevation and vegetation data that has been extracted using the Global Mapper SDK.

Topography plays an important role in determining the position of a turbine. A difference of only a few hundred meters in positioning can have a significant impact on a turbine’s energy production. In order to calculate local wind or “flow” conditions for any given location, WindSim needed the ability to extract global terrain and vegetation data. This functionality was added to WindSim with the Global Mapper SDK.

“Within the wind energy sector, knowledge about the local wind conditions are particularly valuable,” said Dr. Arne R. Gravdahl, CTO and Founder of WindSim. “The success of WindSim Express relies on the easy extraction of terrain data globally.”

Learn more about WindSim at windsim.com.


BGC Engineering: Creating an extension for Global Mapper to export maps

BGC Engineering Inc. (BGC) is an international consulting firm that developed the mixed-reality software system The Ada Platform™ (Ada) for the holographic visualization of applied earth science engineering data.

Viewing 3D holograms in the HoloLens
By viewing 3D holograms in the HoloLens, both technical and non-technical stakeholders can see, interact with, and collaborate on complex applied earth science data.

Ada is cutting edge technology that uses the Global Mapper SDK in a button extension for exporting files from the Global Mapper desktop software. The extension prepares the data for use in Ada’s cloud-based platform. Users can simply drag and drop these files into the tool to quickly share tabletop maps as 3D holograms.

“[The SDK] allows users to access unprecedented viewing capabilities that add considerable value to the high-quality GIS data that Global Mapper provides,” said Keith Lay, Digital Marketing Manager at BGC Engineering Inc. “By viewing this data on the HoloLens, both technical and non-technical stakeholders can view, interact with, and collaborate on complex applied earth science data as never before.”

Dragging and dropping files into The Ada Platform
After GIS files have been packaged and exported using a custom button by BGC Engineering, they can be dragged and dropped into The Ada Platform to share maps as 3D holograms.

Learn more about BGC Engineering’s mixed-reality software system The Ada Platform here: adaplatform.io

SDK updates with each Blue Marble software release

As Blue Marble Geographics’ products grow more sophisticated with every release, so do the possibilities for its development customers who are working on geospatial technology.

To learn more about the GIS and geodetics SDKs that Blue Marble Geographics offers, visit bluemarblegeo.com.

Top 5 New Features of Global Mapper v21

The release of version 21 of the affordable and easy GIS software Global Mapper came with several enhancements, but here are the top 5 features of Global Mapper v21:


A screenshot of a Global Mapper map that has been published in MangoMap
Multi-layered maps can be published to an online MangoMap account directly from Global Mapper v21.

1. Bring Global Mapper online with the MangoMap Extension

In order to provide a simple and efficient way to share web maps directly from Global Mapper v21, Blue Marble Geographics partnered with MangoMap — an online mapping service.

Users who set up a MangoMap account within Global Mapper have the ability to create a Global Mapper Map Portal; share multi-layered GIS content with customers; and publish spatial data to share projects with their coworkers. MangoMap web maps include legends and querying tools, providing a dynamic way of viewing shared geospatial information.

Here is a sample of a Global Mapper map published to a MangoMap site.

In Global Mapper v21, users can try MangoMap for free by creating an account. Learn more here.


A screenshot of the new layer animation functionality in Global Mapper
The new layer animation toolbar in Global Mapper v21 automatically displays layers in a sequential flow, illustrating change over time.

2. Layer animation tools for automatically displaying  a sequence

The new layer Animation toolbar in Global Mapper v21 helps with spatio-temporal data analysis by automatically displaying layers in a sequential flow, illustrating change over time. Depending on the nature of the data, users can control the speed and duration of the playback of their data layers by using the keyframing buttons.


A screenshot of labels being edited in Global Mapper v21
Improved label formatting in Global Mapper makes producing high-quality maps easier and faster. The screenshot above shows the repositioning of  individual labels in a label layer.

3. Improved feature label creation and management

Professionals working in cartography say that the format and layout of a well-designed map always needs some level of human input. This is why the ability to manually create and edit labels was dramatically improved in Global Mapper v21. Vector labels can now be assigned to their own layers, which makes formatting, moving, rotating, and deleting individual labels much easier.


A screenshot of local peaks and depressions in terrain in Global Mapper v21
The option to find local peaks and depressions is a new feature in the contour tool in Global Mapper v21.

4. A tool for identifying local peaks and depressions in a terrain layer

Also new in Global Mapper v21 is an option for finding local peaks and depressions using the contour tool. This option generates point features that represent high and low points in terrain data, which is ideal for some hydrology analysis such as flood containment monitoring, and for planning engineering projects such as radio transmitter placement.


A screenshot of a fly-through path created by recording the fly-mode in Global Mapper
Global Mapper users can now “draw” a fly-through path by recording their movements in fly-mode and walk-mode in the 3D Viewer.

5. The ability to record a fly-through path using the fly-mode and walk-mode in the 3D Viewer

Since version 16, Global Mapper has been able to record fly-through videos, which involved drawing a fly-through path using the Digitizer tool. In version 21, users can now “draw” a fly-through path by recording their movements in fly-mode and walk-mode in the 3D Viewer.

Since the fly-through feature in Global Mapper is an easy way to create videos of 3D data and terrain, it’s commonly used for real estate and property management, planning drone or UAV flight paths or simply creating a compelling presentation of your GIS data to stakeholders

There’s much more to Global Mapper

Global Mapper comes with many more data-creating, editing, rendering, and analysis tools, ranging from digital terrain model generation to viewshed analysis. A two-week free trial of this all-in-one and affordable GIS software can be downloaded here.

 

Webinar: What’s New in Global Mapper v21

The version 21 release of Global Mapper introduces an extensive list of new and updated functionality across all areas of the software, including the LiDAR Module.

In this hour-long presentation, we introduce the highlights including:

  • Integrated MangoMap publishing
  • A new version of Global Mapper Mobile
  • A major upgrade to feature label creating and editing
  • An ingenious tool for finding local peaks and depressions in a terrain layer
  • A new option to record a fly-mode or walk-mode path in the 3D Viewer as a 3D line feature
  • Improved layer template creation for form-based data collection
  • Layer animation allowing the display of a sequence of layers to visualize change over time
  • Significantly improved vector layer management

And for LiDAR Module users:

  • A new tool for identifying and reclassifying power poles from a point cloud
  • Numerous upgrades to the Pixels-to-Points tool
  • And much more

Blue Got Mail – Reducing the vertex count of a vector file

Billy Noble, Applications Specialist at Blue Marble Geographics, answers questions that come into the technical support inbox. In this video, Billy demonstrates how to reduce the vertex count of a vector file in Global Mapper.

Using Global Mapper and Global Mapper Mobile to Prepare for a 186-Mile Bike Ride

After I crossed the finish line of the Trek Across Maine in 2018, I immediately signed up for the next ride without hesitation.

The cycling event takes place over three days and spans 180 miles — starting in the western mountains of Maine and ending on the state’s coast. It benefits the American Lung Association, which is why I chose it as my first cycling event to participate in. I rode in honor of my grandmother who had COPD.

Me in Belfast, Maine after finishing my first Trek Across Maine in June 2018.

When I finished the 2018 Trek, I was so excited that:

  1. I survived!
  2. I got to see a beautiful part of the state I live in
  3. I would be so much more confident on the next Trek because now I knew the route

But then the Trek organizers changed the route for 2019. *womp, womp, womp*

Instead of starting at Sunday River and ending in Belfast, the 2019 Trek would start and end in Brunswick, making a 186-mile loop in central Maine. The route wouldn’t “trek across” anymore, it would “trek around”.

On top of learning about the new route, I hurt my knee badly in January while doing a simple leg stretch (lame!) which was a training-changing injury. So, with a lowered confidence, I wanted to learn more about the new route.

Here’s how I used Global Mapper to visualize and mentally prepare for the 2019 Trek, and how I used Global Mapper Mobile to record my 186-mile journey.

Using Online Data and the Path Profile Tool in Global Mapper

The Trek provides GPX files for each day of the ride on the organization’s website. I downloaded these files; dragged them into Global Mapper; and uploaded elevation data, satellite imagery, and a street map from Global Mapper’s free online data sources.

Using the elevation data, I created path profile views of each of the three riding days. This allowed me to see which of the days would have the largest climbs and where those hills were located. After only a few minutes looking at the data, I could see that Day 2 would be the most challenging. Only ten miles into the 62-mile day, there would be a 375-foot climb, four 225-foot hills, and another 375-footer at mile 45.

Day 1 of the Trek Across Maine
Here’s the elevation of Day 1, the route from Brunswick to Lewiston, Maine.
Day 2 of the Trek Across Maine
Here’s Day 2 from Lewiston to Waterville, which looked like (and proved to be) the hardest day of Trek 2019.
Day 3 of the Trek Across Maine
Here’s Day 3, which appeared to be much easier than Day 2 with only one 250-foot climb at mile 31.

I also explored the “design” of the route by looking at it over satellite imagery to see the vegetation and water bodies I would be riding by. Although Day 2 appeared to be the toughest, it also looked as if it would provide some beautiful views over lakes in the rural Fayette and Readfield area.

Satellite imagery and the Trek Across Maine route in Global Mapper
The three-day route of the Trek Across Maine over satellite imagery. Day 1 is red, Day 2 is green, and Day 3 is blue.

Planning Training Rides in Global Mapper

Looking at the path profiles helped me plan my own rides for training. After talking to some cyclists and looking up popular routes in my area, I planned a 28-mile training ride from my apartment in Portland to Gray that included a 375-foot climb — a hill similar to those two big ones on Day 2.

Using the Digitizer in Global Mapper and my online data, I mapped out this training ride, too.

Training ride from Portland to Gray, Maine
Here is the 28-mile training ride I planned with the computer cursor hovering over the top of the 375-foot climb around mile 10.

Exporting my Map for the Road

In addition to using Global Mapper to look at the path profiles of each day of the Trek, I also used it to add vector points representing each rest stop along the route. After adding these points, I was ready to export my map as a Global Mapper Mobile Package (GMMP) file. Global Mapper 21 and Global Mapper Mobile v2 will allow for a native projection to be retained in a GMMP file. So as I exported, I chose to retain my projection, in my case just for visualization purposes.

I uploaded this file to my Global Mapper Mobile app, and planned on adding data to it while on the 186-mile ride.

Exporting a Global Mapper Mobile Package
Exporting a Global Mapper Mobile Package file from Global Mapper Mobile.

Picture Points and the Measuring Tool in Global Mapper Mobile

June 14, 2019 was the first day of the Trek. I had my map in my Global Mapper Mobile app, and I was ready to start documenting my ride!

There are a few ways I could add photos to my map in Global Mapper Mobile. I could create points on my map from geotagged photos, or I could take photos right in the app and add them as attributes to previously existing points. Since I take so many photos with my iPhone camera, I chose to add photos using the Picture Point Create Mode — creating points from photos I had taken outside of Global Mapper Mobile.

Creating a picture point in Global Mapper Mobile
Here are screenshots of the process of creating a picture point on my map in Global Mapper Mobile. I added a photo of my coworker Jeff and me at the second stop on Day 3.

I originally planned on using the app primarily for documenting my ride, but I found it useful in other instances.

When Day 2 really turned out to be the hardest day, I opened Global Mapper Mobile at the third rest stop to see the distance between me and Colby College — the destination of that day. It was a long 21.6 kilometers (13.4 miles) to ride with sore seat-bones and my disappointment in the shortage of fluffernutter sandwiches at this stop.

Using the Measure tool in Global Mapper Mobile
Using the Measuring tool, I figured out how much further I had to go to get to the last stop of Day 2 of the Trek Across Maine.

Global Mapper and Global Mapper Mobile: Easy as Riding a Bike

As Day 2 proved to me, riding a bike isn’t always easy. But GIS software can be!

I am not a GIS professional. I know that editing and exporting a simple map of a bike route isn’t rocket science. But Global Mapper’s user-friendliness made that non-rocket science even easier.

It took just a few minutes of viewing the route with elevation, street, and satellite data to get a better idea of what the 2019 Trek would be like. Even though exporting my Trek map to Global Mapper Mobile was the first time I had used the desktop and mobile apps in tandem, it was a very straight-forward process.

Uploading a map from Global Mapper Mobile to the Global Mapper desktop
A screenshot of the final photo I added to my map in Global Mapper Mobile. It’s a photo of my team and I just after crossing the finish line.

When I returned back to the office after my second Trek Across Maine, I exported my GMMP file from Global Mapper Mobile and imported it to my Global Mapper desktop. I clicked the vector point labeled “Finish Line” with the Feature Info tool, and up popped a photo of me and my Trek Across Maine team.

Immediately after that picture was taken, I signed up for Trek 2020 without hesitation.


Chelsea Ellis


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.

Global Mapper Tutorials: Generating Contours

In this short video tutorial, we explore Global Mapper’s contour creation capability and we discuss the various option and settings that can applied during the process. Use the links below to jump ahead to a specific section:

  • – Contour Generation Options (0 – 7:39)
  • – Smoothing Selected Contour Lines (7:409:28)
  • – Removing Polygons by Line Length (9:2911:27)
  • – Contour Labels and Index Contours (11:2814:06)
  • – Defining Zoom Level Ranges (14:0719:05)
  • – Generating Elevation Polygons with the Create Contours Tool (19:0622:15)

If you have questions about this topic or or about any other Global Mapper feature or function, email geohelp@bluemarblegeo.com If you are new to Global Mapper, you can download a free trial version at globalmapper.com/download

Top Five New Features in Geographic Calculator SP1

 

Chelsea E | Projections
New dropdown to easily access recently used files in Geographic Calculator 2019 SP1.

 

In early June, we introduced the first service pack update of Geographic Calculator 2019. The new features and functions in this version of Blue Marble’s coordinate conversion software are designed to improve its user-friendliness, accessibility, and efficiency. Although some changes seem slight, such as easier access to recently opened files, they have a big impact on user’s productivity in the software.

Here is a list of the top five new features of Geographic Calculator 2019 SP1:

1. Support for Open Document Spreadsheet (ODS) format

Opening an ODS file in Geographic Calculator 2019 SP1.

In Geographic Calculator 2019 SP1, we added support for the open-source table format Open Document Spreadsheets (ODS) to make Geographic Calculator more accessible to OpenOffice users.

2. Support for batch processing of Area Calculation jobs

Batch processing Area Calculation jobs in Geographic Calculator 2019 SP1.

Before the 2019 service pack, users had to process Area Calculation jobs one by one. In Geographic Calculator 2019 SP1, we’ve added batch support for performing mass calculations for multiple area files.

3. Support for the new Equal Earth projection

The new Equal Earth projection in Geographic Calculator 2019 SP1.

In 2018, Bojan Savic, Bernhard Jenny, and Tom Patterson invented the Equal Earth projection that is inspired by the Robinson projection but retains the relative size of areas. We’ve added this new projection to the long list of projections available in Geographic Calculator.

4. Bulk Export to WKT for coordinate systems

 

Chelsea E | Projections
Bulk exporting coordinate systems together in one WKT file in Geographic Calculator 2019 SP1.

 

Users can now bulk export multiple coordinate systems (or coordinate transformations) together in one WKT file in Geographic Calculator 2019 SP1. This supports interoperability of data across platforms where coordinate systems may or may not be standardized. You can now manage your coordinate systems in Geographic Calculator, and then quickly export them to standardize the options in your other mapping packages for display and analysis.

5. Updates to the Project Manager

 

Project Manager in Geographic Calculator 2019 SP1
The new Project Manage in Geographic Calculator 2019 SP1 now shows the status of jobs.

 

The Project Manager in this service pack version has been updated to be the one-stop-shop for users to process and see the status of jobs in one location. In previous versions of Geographic Calculator, process status was located at the bottom of the interface, taking up screen space.

Over the past 26 years, Geographic Calculator has become an industry leader for accurate coordinate reference system and datum management. This most recent version of the software streamlines user accessibility with new batch and bulk export options, and the additional support for universal and open-source formats.

 

Blue Got Mail – Removing the Collar from Raster Topographic Maps in Global Mapper

This month, we reach deep into the technical support mailbag and pull out a letter from a customer who asks how to remove the collar from their raster topographic map in Global Mapper. Once again, Billy Noble is on hand to show us how this is done.

USGS 3DEP Data Now Available in Global Mapper

New streaming service provides high-resolution elevation data for the United States

The 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) is a USGS-initiated effort to collect and process LiDAR data and to make it publicly available, along with its derived products. The 3DEP elevation data (DEM) as well as several supplementary raster layers are now available free of charge and without use restriction to users of Global Mapper version 20.0 and higher. The 3DEP service is comprised of data from many different sources with horizontal resolutions up to 1 meter.

As an illustration of the quality of the data, the following screenshots compare the 3DEP data on the left with the 10-meter National Elevation Dataset (NED) of the same coverage area.

Bradbury Mountain State Park, Maine
Near Lake Arthur, Louisiana
Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming. Rendered with a Customer Shader
Fort George, Castine, Maine
Point Loma, San Diego, California. Rendered with the Slope Shader
Acadia National Park, Maine
Zion National Park, Utah

If you are currently using version 20.0 of Global Mapper or newer, you will automatically have access to the 3DEP data within the Online Data Sources list. Navigate to the Terrain Data section and choose USGS 3DEP Elevation.

For more information on the current status of the 3DEP and plans for future acquisition, visit www.usgs.gov/core-science-systems/ngp/3dep