Exciting news! The Northeast Regional Geodetic Advisor Dan Martin from the National Geodetic Survey will be speaking along side GIS professionals from BSP Engineers, LiDARUSA, and MFBI Technologies at the first annual Blue Marble GeoTalks on March 21. Martin will present on the upcoming replacement of NAD 83 and NAVD 88 in year 2022.
Registration to attend the online geo-conference is free but space is limited, so be sure to register as soon as possible.
Blue Marble is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2018-2019 Global Mapper Scholarship is James Heslington – a student in the Survey and Land/Environmental Management MSc program at the Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter. Read more about Heslington and the research project he submitted to win the $500 scholarship by clicking the link below.
While all of Blue Marble’s training options have their merits, the Public Training courses come with an extra handful of benefits. This blog entry lists just a few of these opportunities for getting the most return out of a Global Mapper investment.
Global Mapper v20.1 offers several new features including new Digitizer tools, significant upgrades to the Path Profile tool, enhanced LiDAR querying, and much more. In this Global Mapper webinar, that was broadcasted live on March 6, Blue Marble application specialists showcase some of the highlights of this release.
Billy Noble, Applications Specialist at Blue Marble Geographics, answers questions that come into the technical support inbox. In this video, Billy demonstrates how to customize the color and fonts of labels in a layer of a map in Global Mapper.
mong the many upgrades included in Global Mapper v.20.1 is support for the internationally recognized S-52 symbology. An extensive collection of marine navigation symbols is now built in to the software and these are automatically applied when loading S-52 Electronic Navigational Charts (ENC).
About the chart above: Vector Electronic Navigational Chart (ENC) of the approaches to Portland harbor on the coast of Maine. The internationally recognized S-52 symbology is now included in Global Mapper v.20.1.
Surprisingly, no one who entered February’s Geo-Challenge guessed that the bridge spanning New York’s East River was the Brooklyn Bridge. So much for trying to trick you. Among those who correctly identified Manhattan Bridge, along with the four other locations, was Max Shaw-Champion from Perenco. Max will shortly be receiving a copy of Global Mapper 20.1.
Click here for the correct answers to February’s challenge and to try your hand at March’s five locations, click the link below.
There are still a few seats available for the Global Mapper and LiDAR Module training classes in Denver on April 9 – 11. Sign up by April 2 to take advantage of this opportunity to learn how to get the most out of Global Mapper.
If you can’t make it to Denver, here are other Public Training opportunities in 2019:
The latest version of Blue Marble Geographics’ coordinate conversion software continues the 25-year tradition of providing solutions for the most complex geodetic challenges. Geographic Calculator 2019 offers a number of requested improvements, such as a more user-friendly interface, a universal copy and paste function, a new angular unit conversion tool, as well as several enhancements to seismic file format support. However, a closer look also reveals several new features that provide some insight into more significant shifts in Blue Marble’s future development plans.
Geographic Calculator 2019 has added support for version 5.0 of the National Geodetic Survey’s (NGS) North American Datum Conversion tool (NADCON 5.0). This single line item in the release notes may be easily overlooked, but it represents years of work by NOAA-NGS. It also represents a fundamental change in the way United States coordinate reference system and reference frame transformations are performed. Before delving into the details, let’s answer this question…
What is NADCON 5.0?
The origin of this transformation methodology is rooted in the readjustment of the North American Datum of 1927 (NAD27) to the North American Datum of 1983 (NAD83). The differences between these reference frames were very regional and irregular, which resulted in shifts that could not easily be modeled with traditional mathematical transformations. The solution was the original North American Datum Conversion (NADCON) Utility, which was adopted in 1990 as the federal standard for modeling differences between the two systems.
The early versions of the NADCON transformations typically had an accuracy of 12 to 18 centimeters, which represented a significant improvement over most other large-scale models at the time. That said, the tool did have its shortcomings. According to NGS, it was “poorly documented, was applied inconsistently across regions, contained numerous errors, and was difficult to use”. Those kinds of defects were also shared by another NOAA-NGS tool called GEOCON, introduced during the realization of the NAD83(2007) reference frame. The significant difference between the original NADCON and GEOCON transformations was the latter’s ability to perform three-dimensional coordinate transformations among various newer NAD83 frames. This was also improved in GEOCON11 (version 2.0), but time constraints meant that only eleven states were able to provide data for these adjustments.
NADCON 5.0 was built to replace both of these imperfect NGS tools. Unlike its predecessors, it is well-documented, more “user-friendly”, it includes downloadable transformation grids that can be integrated into third-party software, and covers the entire United States (including overseas territories). Newer remote sensing technology and the ability to handle much larger datasets also allows for a finer level of detail during the transformation process. As with the GEOCON model, NADCON 5.0 also offers new transformations between many reference frames and three-dimensional coordinate systems, and it supports the US National Spatial Reference System (NSRS) as well as many other previously unrecognized local horizontal coordinate systems dating back to the late 1800s. It also provides local error estimates as a component of the transformation, which is likely to pique the interest of your friendly neighborhood geodesist.
How does NADCON 5.0 work?
Like the traditional NADCON version 4.0 transformation, version 5.0 is delivered as a set of grid files that can be used to move between individual reference frames. Unlike version 4.0 however, it is no longer limited to horizontal shifts. The new grid files contain fields for identifying 3D transformations between reference frames and an error metric where available. Furthermore, there is a much larger set of grids to choose from and it is no longer constrained to the traditional NAD27->NAD83 or NAD83(20xx)->NAD83(20xx) model. Instead, transformations can be performed between six separate realizations of NAD83, NAD27, and the US Standard Datum (USSD). NADCON 5.0 also provides access to precise transformations between other historic systems such as the Old Hawaiian Datum, Puerto Rico 1940, and local Alaskan systems, such as the St. Paul Island reference frame of 1897 and 1852.
Unlike the old version 4.0 transformation, NADCON 5.0 was designed to chain together various grid files to provide a more accurate result. This makes things a bit more complicated because of the need to keep track of individual transformations as components of a larger concatenated operation. The following diagram shows an example of a shift from the NOAA Technical Report NOS NGS 63.
The illustration shows a chain of transformations for moving a surveyed data point based on the USSD system to NAD83(2011). Any subset of the chain can be used independently as part of the NADCON 5.0 model. This chain process can support a new model once it is created (for example, the 2022 National Reference System) and with one grid file, associate it to all historical models.
So what is foreshadowing about the addition of NADCON 5.0 in Geographic Calculator?
NADCON 5.0 will be instrumental in the transition to yet another adjustment from NAD83 on the horizon — the introduction of the new National Reference Frame of 2022 (NATRF2022) and NSRS2022.
If you are a frequent visitor to Projections, the Blue Marble blog, you may have read an entry by Product Manager Sam Knight explaining why the new NSRS is being developed. If you haven’t seen Sam’s entry, the short explanation is that geoid and GPS-height accuracy have improved and that NAD83 did not account for the dynamic movement of our planet over time. Under the new system, all measurable gravity-related values (such as orthometric heights, geoid undulation, deflections of the vertical, etc…) will be time dependent for compatibility with the NATRF2022 coordinate systems — making for more accurate time-dependent transformations.
NSRS2022 will also replace all of the current vertical datums, which will require updates to VERTCON — another NGS transformation tool. Originally designed to transform between the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD 88) and the North Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD 29), the 2022 update to VERTCON will transform orthometric heights from the old datums into heights in the new North American-Pacific Geopotential Datum (NAPGD2022).
Small changes leading up to larger changes
With awkward acronyms, complex geodetic concepts, and NGS tool history, the 2022 update as it relates to NADCON 5.0 is a lot for a short blog entry. But hopefully you get the key message: NGS is making big changes that will lead to more accurate transformations and Geographic Calculator is an early adopter of these new geodetic parameters. Be on the lookout for more updates as tools like NADCON 5.0 develop and grow. Until then, the Geographic Calculator will continue to hold a finger on the NGS pulse.
Did you catch Global Mapper on television over the summer? In an episode of the Travel Channel show, “Expedition Unknown,” the production crew visited Guatemala in search of Mayan Ruins. A team from LiDARUSA, longtime Global Mapper users, were also involved in the project, collecting LiDAR data for the Mirador Basin Project. Using a combination of drones and helicopters, the data was collected and processed, revealing an uncharted Mayan causeway. As you will see in the footage below, Global Mapper was used to classify bare earth and to view the model that was generated.
No need to worry about this brief cameo going to our heads, the “As Seen On TV” people won’t let us use their logo.
Product News, User Stories, Events, and a Chance to Win a Copy of Global Mapper Every Month
For many, summer is a time for relaxing, for taking your foot off the gas, for being lazy. Not at Blue Marble. We are busy preparing for the next major release of Global Mapper in just over a month, planning our hectic autumn travel schedule, and making the final preparations for our 25th anniversary user conference here in Maine. In this edition of Blue Marble Monthly we formally invite you to join us at BMUC. We also hear from Sam Knight about becoming a licensed drone pilot; we discuss the differences between LiDAR and PhoDAR; and we challenge your geographic prowess in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge.
We hereby cordially invite you to Blue Marble’s home state for our User Conference (BMUC), as we continue to celebrate our 25th birthday. Not only will you have a chance to meet other users and learn about the latest software developments, but you’ll also hear from some interesting presenters including Ron Chapple who will be speaking about his work in the Pulitzer Prize-winning project, “The Wall”.
Ready for the kids to go back to school? Sorry, we can’t help you with that, but we recently sent our own Sam Knight back to school to learn what it takes to become a licensed drone operator. As we continue to develop tools for the UAV industry, it is essential that we have the first-hand knowledge of what is required. For Sam, this was a journey into unknown territory.
Blue Marble’s development process has always relied on direct input from users and now you have a chance to be part of that process. Sign up as a beta tester today and we’ll let you know when a beta version of either Global Mapper or Geographic Calculator is available for you to put through its paces.
The Pixels-to-Points tool has caused quite a stir in the UAV industry. Creating a high-density 3D point cloud from a drone would have been unheard of just a few years ago. While the data may look and feel like traditional LiDAR, there are significant differences between the two formats. In a recent blog post, we outlined some pros and cons of each.
In the latest Global Mapper case study, we hear from Michael Frings, General Manager of MFBI Technologies about how the LiDAR Module’s point cloud processing tools played a critical role in planning autobahn truck stops in Germany.
“The fact that the LiDAR Module is so powerful, giving us the ability to handle large point clouds, was the killer argument for us to go with Global Mapper.” – Michael Frings
Simply stated, Global Mapper gives you more functionality for less money. Need proof? Take a look at this short video highlighting some of the terrain processing tools that are available out of the box in Global Mapper. No extensions required.
The geographic sleuths were once again hard at work in July. Most of you were able to identify all five locations in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge. The randomly selected winner of a copy of Global Mapper is Roy Mayo, a land surveyor from Mackay, Mackay, and Peters. If you are one of the handful whose response to the capital city question was, “Haven’t a clue” or words to that effect, check out the correct answers here then click the link below to see if you can do any better in August’s challenge.
The Blue Marble training team will be hitting the road again in October with the next three-day Global Mapper class scheduled for Houston. Typically our Houston classes fill up fast so be sure to sign up as soon as possible to reserve your spot.
“Without a doubt, one of the most informative and enjoyable technical training classes I have ever taken.” – Recent Global Mapper trainee
This case study explains how MFBI Technologies, a provider of UAV and 3D modeling for project development, used Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module to efficiently and affordably process large point clouds and other data to create final maps for the planning of truck rest areas.
Data for Safe Truck Stop Locations
MFBI has a long established history in system and information technology. They have a keen understanding of their customers’ needs, and they saw that the UAV industry would bring a new level of excellence to their services. Michael Frings, MFBI general manager, invested considerable time and effort into developing this service offered by the company. His work won MFBI a contract with ARC Truck Centers, an investment firm from Hamburg, to tackle a significant transit issue in Germany: the need for adequate rest areas for the truck traffic that flows through the country.
Because of its central location on the European continent, Germany has an extensive network of truck routes crisscrossing the country. The large volume of traffic overburdens the current truck stops, which are situated close to autobahns and major highways. MFBI, in conjunction with a local land survey company, is working to provide precise geographical information to assist with the siting of modern truck stops that will provide drivers with much needed safe, secure places to stop and rest.
Need for Efficient Data Management
After winning the ARC contract to conduct UAV surveys of thirty new truck stop locations, MFBI faced several obstacles: coordinating with the other contractors on the project, understanding what GIS products are of the most value to the project investors; and obtaining all the necessary approvals for UAV flight operations.
MFBI used a Multi- rotor Trimble ZX5 hexacopter to conduct the survey. However, special permission was needed to fly the drone within 100 meters of the highway. Even after permission was granted, the two-person teams sent to complete the project had to be accompanied by police to ensure the safety of vehicles on the highway.
Flight planning was critical to the venture; the teams needed to make sure their time in field was productive and efficient. The project required the point cloud to be embedded with vector data gathered from local municipalities to aid in planning and data processing. After the flights were completed the challenge of data processing and management arose. The demand for survey data increased, as well as the need for efficient and accurate software that could easily manage the data. Furthermore, a large dense point cloud needed to be processed in a short time frame. For this project the point cloud would ultimately contain over 110 million points.
The final step in the process would require the delivery of data, including point clouds and accurate 3D models, to the architect and the developer working to design the projects for the client.
Maximizing Productivity at Low Cost
MFBI quickly recognized that Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module were ideal for their workflow. The versatility of the software allowed them to maximize their productivity and minimize their costs. However, according to Michael Frings, processing power was the most important factor in choosing Global Mapper and the LiDAR module software. In a recent conversation with Blue Marble’s President Patrick Cunningham, he said, “Simply, the fact that the LiDAR module is so powerful gives us the possibility to handle these large point clouds. That was the killer argument to go with Global Mapper.”
“The fact that the LiDAR Module is so powerful, giving us the ability to handle these large point clouds, was the killer argument for us to go with Global Mapper.” Michael Frings | General Manager
Global Mapper at Work
Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module were essential to MFBI’s workflow. Michael Frings and his team took advantage of the streamable data services available through Global Mapper’s Online Data function. The team imported topographic and municipal boundary maps to plan for the flights of their drone. They were able to calculate how many flights were needed and make notes of any potential areas of difficulty.
Once the collection process was completed, and the photogrammetric analysis had been performed, Global Mapper was used to classify the point cloud, automatically identifying ground points and other surface types. After filtering the non-ground points, a precise terrain model was generated. The processing power of the LiDAR module was critical, as it easily handled the large files that MBFI created. They then used Global Mapper’s Ridgeline and Path Profile tools to identify and delineate breaklines in the terrain.The team generated elevation layers at five to ten meter resolution but also received requests for grid resolutions as fine as one meter. Finally, the team created 3D PDFs providing a simple and effective way for the customer to visualize the project.
About Global Mapper
Global Mapper is an affordable and easy-to-use GIS application that offers access to an unparalleled variety of spatial datasets and provides just the right level of functionality to satisfy both experienced GIS professionals and beginning users. Equally well suited as a standalone spatial data management tool and as an integral component of an enterprise-wide GIS, Global Mapper is a must-have for anyone who deals with maps or spatial data. The supplementary LiDAR Module provides a powerful set of tools for managing point cloud datasets, including automatic point classification and feature extraction.
About Blue Marble Geographics
Trusted by thousands of GIS professionals around the world, Blue Marble Geographics is a leading developer of software products and services for geospatial data conversion and GIS. Pioneering work in geomatics and spatial data conversion quickly established this Maine-based company as a key player in the GIS software field. Today’s professionals turn to Blue Marble for Global Mapper, a low-cost, easy-to-use yet powerful GIS software tool. Blue Marble is known for coordinate conversion and file format expertise and is the developer of The Geographic Calculator, GeoCalc SDK, Global Mapper, LiDAR Module for Global Mapper, and the Global Mapper SDK.
Product News, User Stories, Events, and a Chance to Win a Copy of Global Mapper Every Month
If there is one question that we are asked more than any other it is this: “How does Global Mapper compare to ArcGIS?” Coinciding with the annual gathering of Esri devotees in San Diego, we shed some light on how Global Mapper stacks up. The bottom line: you get a lot more for a lot less! Also in this edition of Blue Marble Monthly, we introduce Blue Marble’s official reseller in France, we offer some suggestions for enhancing your summer wardrobe, and as always, we give you a chance to win a copy of Global Mapper in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge.
Using ArcGIS and need to create a terrain model? You’ll need an extension for that. What about calculating volumes or generating contours? Ditto. Global Mapper gives you all this and much, much more right out of the box. Check out the latest blog post from Chelsea Ellis to find out more.
Someone once said, “You are what you wear”. Or maybe it was, “You are what you eat”. Whatever! In any case, in today’s world of high fashion, we present you with smart, low key alternatives. For summer fun, laughs, and t-shirts check out the latest from the Blue Marble Emporium.
Considering ArcGIS for field data collection? Did you know that Global Mapper Mobile is available free of charge and offers disconnected access to critical data layers, field data collection capability, and mobile digitizing? This easy-to-use app is available for iOS and Android devices.
Based in the spectacular French Alps, Geom@tique recently celebrated 20 years in business (Bon Anniversaire de Blue Marble). In this month’s Reseller Spotlight, we ask company owner Alain Olivier to share some insight on the business and the importance of its partnership with Blue Marble.
Data visualization is one of the fundamental functions of a GIS. In the latest Global Mapper webcast, we explore a variety of workflows for customizing the display of vector layers to reveal spatial patterns in the data.
Contrary to the suggestion of at least two Geo-Challenge entrants in June, the county to be identified was not, in fact, Wakanda. Tom Hughes from HuGIS GeoSpatial Ltd. was not one of these people and he will be receiving a copy of Global Mapper as the first randomly selected entrant with all five correct responses. Check what Wakanda should have been along with the answers for the other four locations here and test you geographic knowledge in the latest Geo-Challenge.
Since we turned 25 this year, our Blue Marble User Conference in Portland, Maine on September 21 is gearing up to be a special one. We’re also looking forward to our German partner “screen & paper GmbH” conducting Global Mapper Training in Freising, Bavaria this November.
Be sure to register for BMUC Maine, while seats are still available!
The translation of Global Mapper into French in 2016 significantly expanded the potential market for the software, not only in the country of France itself, but also throughout the French-speaking world. This monumental task was undertaken by Blue Marble partner and reseller, Géom@tique. In the latest Reseller Spotlight, we hear from company founder, Alain Olivier about how this partnership has helped his company grow over its 20-year history.
Tell us a little bit about Géom@tique?
Géom@tique has been a GIS software reseller just over two decades. Our twentieth anniversary was on April 7th, 2018! The company is based in one of the most beautiful mountain regions of France: Savoy. We provide a combination of geomatics expertise and a high level of service, which has proven itself to many French-speaking customers around the world, particularly in technical support and training. Our business involves the distribution of software as well as related consulting, support, and training services in the use of both vector data and raster data (satellite, aerial, LiDAR, etc.). Géom@tique is the exclusive distributor of Global Mapper in France and for the French language version throughout the world.
How many people currently work for the company?
Three people currently work at Géom@tique in well-defined roles: sales, technical support and training, communication. The company relies on partnerships whenever necessary and plans to continue recruiting in the near future.
How did Géom@tique get started?
As a young agricultural engineer who had just become a Doctor of Geography (PhD), for me, it was an easy transition from university life to the business of distributing innovative tools for geomatics and cartography. Spotted by the software company, Avenza, via a professional forum (a relatively new online gathering place for like-minded individuals at end of the 1990s!), a simple mail exchange accompanied by a brochure from the SVM MAC magazine (number 91, “MAPublisher: entre cartographe et dessinateur”) was enough for the MAPublisher adventure in France to begin. This was a risky venture as there were only a handful of customers at the time! The company timeline illustrates the expansion of the company’s business with new products being added and, most importantly, the establishment of close links with their creators in order to always meet the needs of customers as efficiently as possible.
Tell us a little about your background in GIS?
The company benefits so from my experience and expertise as a doctor in geography who is also passionate about computer science. My PhD thesis focused on the implementation of an innovative raster mapping methodology for the study of agricultural spaces. My taste for cartographic tools goes back a very long time with an extremely diversified use of geomatic tools at the beginning, and then a specialization on the tools that Géom@tique would eventually resell, notably Global Mapper! The company has also recruited a PhD student geographer who has good experience with GIS tools, including Global Mapper and MAPublisher.
What are your target markets?
Our target markets are extremely varied and include cartographic publishing, spatial planning, defense, energy, environment, archaeology, transport, risk prevention, meteorology, communication, and spatial analysis.
What geographic area do you cover?
Historically the company has sold products to organizations of very diverse geographical origins that extend from Madagascar to Tromsø, but generally in metropolitan France or in French-speaking countries.
How long has Géom@tique been reselling Global Mapper?
Géom@tique was officially appointed as a reseller (Certified Reseller) in the early 2000s with the distribution of Geographic Calculator and Global Mapper. We are very proud to have translated Global Mapper into French in 2016 (version 17) following a request from the French Ministère des Armées. In the same year, one of our employees became a certified trainer for Global Mapper. As an ongoing project, we are also working on the major task of translating all of the Global Mapper documentation.
Why were you originally interested in reselling Blue Marble products?
We were interested in reselling Blue Marble products for the originality and the quality of its products as well as for the very good reputation of the company.
What is your favorite feature of Global Mapper?
Choosing just one tool is difficult. Here are my three favorites:
The 3D Viewer allows visualizing terrain data in an extremely simple and powerful way. We have seen its usefulness in many situations especially when they work with the LiDAR Module.
About the LiDAR Module, the new Pixels-to-Points tool is a “little gem” since it allows integrating real photogrammetry treatments in Global Mapper. We know that many of our customers use UAV images and this tool is perfect for them.
Finally, the Viewshed tool is very important to many French users. It is used in a wide variety of fields (energy, defense, research, etc.).
The video below was produced by one of our employees as part of a Master’s research project. It follows the potential path of a ski lift and also shows the visibility areas of a famous peak in the Maurienne Valley (Aiguilles d’Arves). In a research context, this video clearly demonstrated how a particular visualization method could help decision makers communicate with their citizens.
What has been your most interesting or challenging sales or support experience?
Our most challenging sale was with the Ministère des Armées and especially with the implementation of a multi-year contract for Global Mapper. It was a big challenge that took a long time to negotiate but resulted in a very favorable outcome for both parties. As a result of this contract, Global Mapper gained its spurs in the military field and with the continued development of the LiDAR Module and the SDK, we are confident it will have relevance for years to come.
Other than reselling Blue Marble software, what other services do you provide?
We are a reseller of other software complementary to Global Mapper like MAPublisher for example – and we provide training (online or on-site), technical support, and some research or consultation services.
How has your partnership with Blue Marble benefited your business?
Our partnership with Blue Marble Geographics has allowed us to increase our level of professionalism and to significantly expand the scope of our business. Geom@tique brings its in-depth knowledge of the French and Francophone market, including cultural considerations. This mutually beneficial relationship will, of course, be continued and strengthened, in particular by reciprocal visits.
How do you see your business growing with Global Mapper? New markets?
We believe that there is a huge opportunity to spread the word about Global Mapper to universities and to introduce students to an alternative GIS software. The more they can be trained at the university on Global Mapper, the more it is great for the promotion of the software in many markets.
Any final words?
The diversity of software tools and the wide variety of users that the company works with every day is a real strength that helps the company to provide better services. In October 2017, Geom@tique embarked on a research project under an Industrial Research Training Agreement which will allow it to deepen its knowledge on the use of the tools, with the goal to better meet the current and future needs of the customers.