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.

 

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.

Top 5 Tools and Functions of the Global Mapper LiDAR Module

In anticipation of the increasing availability and use of LiDAR and other point cloud datasets, the LiDAR Module, an add-on to Global Mapper, was first introduced in version 15 of the software. Over the last five years, this popular component has rapidly evolved and offers an array of powerful tools.

In this blog entry, we highlight the top five most important tools and functions in the LiDAR Module, including extracting vector features, processing UAV-collected images into point clouds, filtering LiDAR data, and generating 3D meshes or models.


Pixels-to-Points Tool in Global Mapper
3D Point cloud of a barn viewed created with the Pixels-to-Points tool

1. Pixels-to-Points

The newest addition to the LiDAR Module, Pixels-to-Points is a tool for creating a high-density point cloud, orthoimage, and 3D meshe from overlapping images, especially those captured using a drone

Based on the principles of photogrammetry, the Pixels-to-Points process identifies objects in multiple images and from multiple perspectives to generate a 3D point cloud. As a by-product of the point-generation process, the tool can also create an orthoimage by gridding the RGB values in each point, as well a 3D mesh, complete with photorealistic textures.

Pixels-to-Points offers photogrammetric point cloud creation that is both affordable and straightforward, and is increasingly used as an alternative to traditional LiDAR collection.


Auto Classification of LiDAr points
Buildings and trees identified and reclassified in a LiDAR layer

2) Auto Point Reclassification

The LiDAR Module’s automatic reclassification tools can accurately identify points representing ground, vegetation, buildings, and utility cables.

Algorithms in the LiDAR Module analyze the geometric properties and characteristics of point clouds to quickly classify these features. This process is commonly used to identify, classify, and filter ground points when creating a Digital Terrain Model (DTM), or as a first step in the process of isolating specific feature types when extracting vector features, such as buildings or trees, from a point cloud.


Feature Extraction using the Global Mapper LiDAR Module
Vector lines representing above-ground power cables extracted from LiDAR data

3) Feature Extraction

The Feature Extraction tool is used to create vector objects from appropriately classified points.

Based on a series of customizable settings, points representing buildings, trees, and utility cables are analyzed and automatically delineated as a series of 3D vector objects or, in the case of buildings, as a 3D mesh.

Feature extraction is particularly useful for creating building footprints, defining roof structures, powerlines, and other 3D features from classified LiDAR data.


Digitizing the edge of a curb using the Global Mapper LiDAR Module
Digitizing the edge of a curb using the perpendicular profile function

4) Custom Feature Extraction

Custom Feature Extraction is a function for delineating atypical 3D features from point cloud data.

This function allows for the creation of accurate 3D line or area features by defining control vertices in a sequential series of perpendicular path profile views. Examples of using Custom Feature Extraction might be for defining road curbs, pipelines, or drainage ditches,


3D Mesh created using the Global Mapper LiDAR Module
3D Mesh of a suburban neighborhood created from selected points in a point cloud

5) Mesh Creation from LiDAR Points

Mesh Creation is a function that uses a selected group of points to create a 3D vector object complete with photorealistic colors or textures.

The LiDAR Module offers the ability to create a mesh or model using the 3D geometry and colors of a selected group of points. When viewed in 3D, this model displays as a multifaceted photo-realistic 3D representation of the corresponding feature.

For information about all of the features that the LiDAR Module has to offer, visit our website here.