MFBI Technologies: Processing Large Point Clouds Using Global Mapper & the LiDAR Module

The final map of a project area using the combination of general topo information, precise ortho photography, infrastructures, a height grid, and manually generated vector information.

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.

Topo map
Topo map of the project area with added data, including property boundaries, sewer lines, gas pipes, and communication infrastructure

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.

A combination of a Path Profile analysis and an automatic algorithm shows breaklines in point cloud data.

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.

Terrain analysis that compares manually set points with automatically calculated ridge line profiles

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.

Blue Marble Monthly – Global Mapper vs ArcGIS

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.

LiDAR Data in Global Mapper

GLOBAL MAPPER | No Extensions Required

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.

 

PROJECTIONS | Blue Marble Summer Fashion

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.

 

DID YOU KNOW? | Global Mapper Mobile is Free

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.

 

RESELLER SPOTLIGHT | Geom@tique – Our French Partner

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.

 

VIDEOS | Rendering Vector Data in Global Mapper

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.

This and previous Blue Marble Webinars and Webcasts can be viewed at the Blue Marble YouTube Channel and on the Webinars page on the Blue Marble web site.

 

Where in the World Geo-Challenge

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.

 

See complete terms and conditions here.

EVENTS | BMUC in Maine & Training in Germany

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!

 

Reseller Spotlight: Our French Distributor Géom@tique

A screenshot of a flythrough video that follows the potential path of a ski lift, showing the visible areas of a famous peak in the Maurienne Valley (Aiguilles d’Arves), France.

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?

Alain Olivier

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.

The history of Géom@tique.

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.

Distribution of Géom@tique customers in France and around the world.

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.

Géom@tique was present at the beginning of July at the GeoDataDays 2018, the first digital geography show in Le Havre, France.

5 Features of Geographic Calculator That Didn’t Exist 25 Years Ago

The year 2018 marks a significant milestone in the Blue Marble Story. A quarter of a century ago, a group of enterprising geospatial technologists, recognizing the importance of geodetic accuracy and precision in a wide variety of fields, initiated a project that would result in the first version of Geographic Calculator. Little did they anticipate that 25 years later – a veritable eternity in the world of technology — the application would still be going strong and would have established itself as the go-to coordinate management tool for countless companies throughout the world.

The basic premise behind Geographic Calculator is to ensure the maximum possible degree of accuracy in any type of spatially referenced data when it is assigned to a different frame of reference. In short, it is a geodetic toolkit. Built on the foundation of the world’s most extensive and up-to-date database of coordinate system and transformation parameters, the Calculator, as it is often idiomatically referred, has been adopted by many major companies and government departments. It is deployed both as a standalone application and increasingly as an embedded component in third party applications through its SDK variant, GeoCalc.

Needless to say, an application that has been in existence for 25 years has undergone significant changes since its early versions. To help put this in perspective, we asked Sam Knight, Director of Product Management and universally recognized Calculator guru, to take a trip down memory lane and come up with the five most significant differences between the first release of the Calculator and today’s version.

Vector and Raster Data Conversions

Blue Marble Geographics
Raster processing in Geographic Calculator 2017

The first several releases of Geographic Calculator dealt exclusively with numeric data, lists of coordinate values if you will. If you needed to apply a conversion to raster or vector files, you would have to wait few years for that to be available. When it was finally introduced, the raster processing component was actually a completely separate application called Geographic Transformer. Eventually it was integrated into a complete suite of tools under the title, Blue Marble Desktop. The name of this suite of tools would eventually come full circle and once again be branded Geographic Calculator.

Coordinate Transformations (Datum Shifts)

Blue Marble Geographics
The late-binding transformation dialog box in Geographic Calculator 2017

The complicated, multi-parameter computation that is needed to assign data to a differed horizontal datum, usually referred to as a datum shift, was a much more basic process in the first release. Referred to as early-binding, the transformation parameters were predefined within the Datasource.  When you selected a datum, it came with transformation parameters to WGS 84.  With the introduction of late-binding in 2006, it became possible to select a single or multi-step transformation method with any datum as the intermediary, not just WGS 84. This opened the possibility of more accurately transforming between regional or specialized systems.

Batch Processing

Blue Marble Geographics
Batch processing in Geographic Calculator 2017

After the initial release of the Calculator, it quickly became apparent that users were interested in processing multiple files simultaneously using the same conversion settings. Unfortunately, batch processing, such as is seen in today’s release, was not available. Files had to be managed individually. Today’s batch processing tool is easy to set up and saves much time and effort. Simply define the specific parameters for a certain type of job and use this job as the basis of the batch process.

Ability to Save Work on Projects

Blue Marble Geographics
Calculator project in Geographic Calculator 2017

In any application, efficient file and project management is essential, but unfortunately, the development of the early versions of the Geographic Calculator focused more on the fundamental geodetic processing capabilities, while relegating workflow efficiency to a lower priority. The current method for saving projects, which allows users to establish templates containing commonly used conversion and transformation jobs, was finally introduced in 2006.

EPSG Database

Blue Marble Geographics
EPSG datasource in Geographic Calculator 2017

At the heart of the Calculator is the extensive Datasource, a vast library of coordinate system and datum parameters. In the early releases, this was largely derived from a publication that was managed by the U.S. Defense Mapping Agency (DMA), which would later become the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). This offered no more than a few hundred coordinate systems. The emergence of the European Petroleum Survey Group (EPSG, now known as IOGP) Geodetic Parameter Registry was the basis for a significant expansion of the Datasource which now provides users with over 5,000 coordinate system definitions, over 2,000 datum transformations, and much more.

Ensuring Geodetic Accuracy for 25 Years

Having been in development for 25 years, it is little wonder that Geographic Calculator has established itself as the preeminent geodetic software. While much has changed since the first release, its fundamental function is the same: to ensure geodetic accuracy and precision.

Global Mapper for Wind Energy Development

3D models of wind turbines in the 3D Viewer in Global Mapper.

The development of a wind energy  project, big or small, is a complex process that considers several factors. From measuring the actual wind resources in an area to researching potential zoning and ordinance conflicts, it’s not a project that’s easily simplified. But in the beginning stages of planning, whether you’re considering bringing wind energy to your own property or to a larger community, creating a rough visualization of a wind project can be relatively easy.

In this blog entry, we explain the online resources and tools available through Global Mapper that can help estimate resources and terrain modifications, and create a visualization of the preliminary plans of a wind project. We’ll do this by simulating a simplified planning process for a wind farm to arrive at a 3D visualization.

Importing & Analyzing Online Data in Global Mapper

In the planning of an actual wind project, we would want to know the annual average wind energy potential of our property, any legal limitations, and so much more information before even beginning plans for development. But for this simple simulation, our purpose is to introduce how relevant data can be accessed, analyzed, and visualized in Global Mapper.

One online source that we are using is the National Renewable Energy Lab, which is a federally owned and contractor-operated facility that provides data and maps for energy-focused purposes. The data set we are downloading shows the wind energy potential of areas across the state of Maine on a relative scale ranging from values of 0 to 7, with 7 representing the greatest potential.

Running a Simple Query to Target Specific Attribute Values

If we determine the required value for our wind farm plans, we can build a query that targets those specific areas that match our requirement. For instance, if we wanted to find areas that are greater than or equal to the value of 6, we can run a simple query to find those areas within this data set. We can also use the Info tool to explore the wind energy potential of properties within an area.

NREL data
The freely available raw data downloaded directly from the NREL website. By either running a simple query or using the Infor tool, polygons can be selected in this data to explore their attributes.

Applying Color to Visualize Patterns in Data

Another way we can visualize the distribution and range of values in this data set is by applying a color scheme. As we can see, this visualization makes it easy to target those areas of maximum wind potential. If we wanted, we can add a legend to our map to further illustrate what values the colors actually represent. But in this instance, we are interested in visualizing which areas have the highest potential.

Colorized data
NREL data with colors applied, allowing for a more immediate understanding of the range of values in the data set.

We can bring in some additional data to add more context, such as county outlines and town boundaries within the state. If we were looking to develop wind energy in a particular geographic location, for instance in a particular town, we have the background data that shows those boundaries. We can also pull in road data to see the road access to areas being considered for development.

For our simulation, we are choosing an area based on this very quick visualization of the NREL data we imported into Global Mapper.

Accessing Free Terrain and Land Cover Data Through Global Mapper’s Online Data Service

With our area of interest chose, we can find more relevant data through Global Mapper’s free online data service. For our simulation, we are choosing to use a specific area of a 10-meter National Elevation Data (NED) data set that we streamed into the application and exported to a local Global Mapper grid file.

Online data in Global Mapper
Terrain and land cover data accessed through Global mapper’s online data services.

We streamed the data through the online data service, which has a wide range of data options categorized geographically as well as by data type and theme. In this instance, we are interested in terrain data to give us visual context and also a functional base for some of the modification processes we will run later.

We are also interested in land cover data, which will help us visualize the roughness of the terrain. We can find a raster representation of our area under the land cover section in the online data options.

Generating a Roughness Grid from Land Cover Data

Areas with less friction, or surface roughness, are better suited for wind energy production. From our land cover data, we can generate a grid to visualize areas where roughness could reduce energy potential.

To create this roughness grid, we can open locally saved land cover data that we had previously exported from the online data service. Either by right clicking the land cover layer or from our analysis menu, Global Mapper gives us the option to generate a roughness grid and to choose a shader with which to render the grid. For this visualization, we prepared a custom shader beforehand that illustrates the range of roughness through the gradients of a single color – lighter tints representing less roughness, darker shades representing greater roughness.

Roughness grid in Global Mapper
A roughness grid showing the distribution of open and forested areas through the gradients of a single color.

This visualization allows us to see open areas such as fields or bodies of water that may provide ideal conditions for a wind farm.

Finding Ridge Lines & Isolating a Single Ridge

Another ideal location for a wind farm is on a ridge. We can find a ridge line or high point within the focus area by using the Find Ridge Lines tool, which is a function that works similarly to a watershed analysis, but in reverse. Instead of looking for areas where drainage would accumulate, the tool finds the highest points on our terrain.

Ridge lines in Global Mapper
Ridge lines generated using the Find Ridge Lines function in Global Mapper.

After choosing specific parameters, such as the width threshold of the lines, we can see a variety of ridge lines appear in the area visible on our screen. These lines are actually segmented, so in order to isolate a ridge we want, we can combine the segments of that ridge into a single line by selecting the desired segments and using the Combine Features tool.

Plotting Points Along a Ridge to Represent Wind Turbines

With our new ridge line selected, we can generate point features to represent our wind turbines along the ridge by using the Create New Points from Selected Lines tool. We can specify that we want ten vertices to represent ten wind turbines evenly spaced along the ridge, and discard vertices that may have already been part of our original ridge line. Once these parameters are set up, we can see that the ten vertices have been generated that represent the wind turbines in our simulation.

We can then edit these inherently generic point features and choose a Feature. For this simulation, we prepared a custom feature type called Wind Turbine which has a 3D visual representation of a wind turbine assigned to it. This 3D model is actually pre-configured in Global Mapper. We can also edit the attributes of these, but for this simulation, we are only assigning our customized feature type.

Points on a ridge line in Global Mapper
Evenly spaced points representing the locations of wind turbines on a ridge line.

Once these points have been edited, we can view them in the 3D Viewer and see the 30-meter height attribute of the 3D models we prepared in advance, and the even spacing between each model along our ridgeline.

Creating Buffers Around Wind Turbine Locations

After we have placed our wind turbines, we can then generate a buffer around each point in preparation for creating flattened areas, or site pads, in the terrain. With our points selected, we can click the Buffer tool in our toolbar. In this simulation, we are choosing to have buffer areas with a 10-meter radius around each of our wind turbines. Once the buffer areas are defined and generated, we see the concentric ring that represents the physical area that will be flattened around each point in the terrain-modification process.

Buffers around points in Global Mapper
Circles around each point represent a 10-meter buffer that was created using the Buffer tool.

Generating an Elevation Grid from LiDAR Data

In order to generate a more accurate terrain model for our simulation, we can import pre-cropped LiDAR data that was originally streamed from the U.S. Geological Survey through Global Mapper’s online data service. This higher quality elevation data allows us to create more precise modifications and visualization than the lower-resolution terrain data we had originally imported.

Raw LiDAR data in Global Mapper
Raw LiDAR data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

To create an elevation grid from this LiDAR point cloud, we can simply click the Elevation Grid button with our LiDAR data layer selected. In this simulation, we are choosing to grid only ground points. Once the new grid has been generated, we can open the Elevation Options to feather, or blend, the edges of our higher quality grid into the lower-resolution terrain data.

Calculating Cut and Fill Values & Creating Pad Sites

With our buffers selected, we can use the Flatten Site Plan tool to flatten those buffer areas of the LiDAR-based elevation grid. The tool calculates the volume of material that must be shifted in order to achieve a flattened site – giving a cut volume and a fill volume. Not only does Global Mapper give these helpful calculations, it also modifies the elevation grid so we can visualize what the cut and fill alterations would look like.

Cut and fill calculation in Global Mapper
The results of a cut and fill calculation in the Path Profile window. The original profile of the terrain is shown in red and the flattened terrain is represented by a yellow line and green shading. This shows the cut and fill that would be required for this pad site.

Viewing the Visual Impact of a Project with the View Shed Tool

With one of our wind turbine points selected, we can click the View Shed tool to see the extent at which our wind turbine is visible in the distance. We can base our analysis on the height of our selected wind turbine and on the height of an average person — 2 meters or so. Global Mapper calculates the areas at which our wind turbine will be visible to an average person, and displays these areas in red. This analysis allows us to see the visual impact of our wind farm in the area of development.

View Shed tool in Global Mapper
The areas displayed in red are locations where the selected wind turbine is visible.

Creating a Fly-through of a Wind Energy Project

After setting up our wind turbines and modifying our terrain surface, we can create a 3D fly-through to further visualize the project. We can do this by drawing a line for our flight path using the Digitizer tool. With this line selected, we can set up the specifications of our fly through by using the Create Fly-through tool.

Once we’ve established the height, bank angle, and duration of our flight, we can preview it in the 3D Viewer. If we’re happy with this fly-through, we can also save it from the 3D Viewer. If we aren’t happy with it, we can go back and edit the flight or segments of the flight line again.

Creating a fly-through is a great way to present a project, particularly one like a wind energy project that may need to be proposed to government officials or multiple stakeholders.

Global Mapper: A Robust Tool for Any Development Project

While this simulation involves some behind-the-scenes preparation, such as the creation of a custom point feature type and the cropping of LiDAR data, it’s still a prime example of how simple data visualization and terrain modification can be in Global Mapper. It can be easy, not only in the context of a potential wind energy project, but for any development plan that requires quick access to terrain data and robust digitizing tools.

Where in the World Geo-Challenge – AAG Edition

Win a Copy of Global Mapper in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge

Think you know your way around the world?
Why not take the Blue Marble Geographics‘ Geo-Challenge? Simply identify the five geographic features or locations below and you will be in the running to win a copy of Global Mapper.

Prize | Global Mapper: GIS, only better

With a rapidly expanding worldwide user community, Global Mapper is changing the way people think about GIS. Offering support for over 300 spatial file formats and boasting a surprising collection of powerful data processing and analysis tools, Global Mapper is a viable and genuinely affordable alternative to traditional GIS applications.  So while you’re waiting to see if you are the lucky winner, why not download a trail copy today and see for yourself.

Contest | The Geo-Challenge Happens Every Month

If you miss out this time around, not to worry, Blue Marble is giving away a copy of Global Mapper every month. Check out Blue Marble Monthly for details.

View the form at Google Forms >

Blue Marble Monthly GIS Newsletter – April 2018

satellite imagery

Product News, User Stories, Events, and a Chance to Win a Copy of Global Mapper Every Month

Coinciding with our annual trip to the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Conference in New Orleans, the focus of April’s newsletter shifts to academia. Since the introduction of the free academic licensing program during the 2017 conference, countless U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities have adopted Global Mapper as their go-to GIS software for classroom and lab instruction. A recent participant in this program and current Blue Marble employee, Janet Leese, shares her experience about how she was introduced to Global Mapper while a student at the University of Maine.

In this issue we also announce an update to the popular Global Mapper Academic Curriculum, providing free instructional materials for teaching GIS; we provide a lesson of our own by offering a layperson’s guide to the principles of geodesy; and we find out if you were paying attention in geography class in the monthly Where in the World Geo-Challenge.

georeferencing

Product News | Global Mapper Academic Curriculum Updated

An initial impetus behind the development of the Global Mapper Academic Curriculum was the need to fill an apparent void in the availability of concise and straightforward GIS teaching materials. After meeting with several University of Maine faculty members, Blue Marble Applications Specialists set about creating a series of hands-on, self-driven lessons targeting some key GIS themes. Recently updated to reflect the latest enhancements in Global Mapper, these lab materials are available free of charge to institutes of higher education.

 

janet leese

Projections | Global Mapper from a Student’s Perspective

Janet Leese, the most recent addition to the esteemed Blue Marble Tech Support team and recent graduate of the University of Maine, holds a unique distinction among the group. While most of her colleagues’ first experience with Global Mapper resulted from a word-of-mouth recommendation from a fellow professional, Janet’s first exposure to the software was in an undergraduate GIS class. What better candidate, therefore, to share her experience getting to know Global Mapper through the Global Mapper Academic Program. Spoiler Alert! Global Mapper must have left a lasting impression; Janet now spends her days assisting customers in the finer points of the software.

 

geodesy diagrams

Did You Know? | A Beginner’s Guide to Geodesy

“So what exactly is a datum or more importantly, why should I care?” If this sentiment reflects your position on the broad field of geodesy, it would probably be prudent to enlighten yourself. For anyone working in mapping, GIS, cartography, surveying, etc. etc. etc., the discipline of geodesy is the indispensable foundation upon which everything we do depends. In our own way, we are all interested in the fundamental question, “Where?” It is the function of geodesy to provide a suitable frame of reference that allows us to effectively answer that question. In a recent blog post, Blue Marble President Patrick Cunningham sheds some light on the subject.

 

heat map

Webinars | Global Mapper Academic Programs

In this brief presentation, we discuss the three components of the Global Mapper Academic Program: the free licensing available to institutes of higher education in the U.S. and Canada; the announcement of a $500 scholarship which will be awarded to a student using Global Mapper; and a hands-on look at the newly updated academic curriculum materials.

This and previous Blue Marble Webinars and Webcasts can be viewed at Blue Marble YouTube Channel and on the Webinars page on the Blue Marble web site.

 

 

geo-challenge

Where in the World Geo-Challenge

March’s Geo-Challenge saw the first potential bone of contention in its year-long history. Asked to name the desert, an equal number suggested the Sonoran Desert and the Gran Desierto de Altar, which is contained therein. In the interest of preserving the peace, both are acceptable responses. Check out the rest of the answers here to see how well you did.

Of those who answered all five correctly, Anthony James of Harris Corporation was the first name pulled from the hat. Anthony will shortly be receiving a complimentary copy of Global Mapper.

Ready for another challenge? Try your luck with April’s five locations.

 

See complete terms and conditions here.

 

Photo of the Portland Blue Marble User Conference

Events | Where Blue Marble Will Be Next

Upcoming Events

GeoSmart Asia ’18 & Locate ’18
Adelaide, AU | April 9 – 11

American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting
New Orleans, LA | April 10 – 14

Commercial UAV Expo Europe
Amsterdam | April 10 – 12

Global Mapper and LiDAR Module Training
Adelaide, AU | April 11 – 13

GEOINT Symposium
Tampa, FL | April 22 – 25

Maine Municipal Association
Augusta, ME | April 27

AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2018
Denver, CO | April 30 – May 3

AWEA WINDPOWER Conference and Exhibition 2018
Chicago, IL | May 7 – 10

GEO Business 2018
London, UK | May 22 – 23

 

Win a Copy of Global Mapper in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge

Think you know your way around the world?
Why not take the Blue Marble Geographics‘ Geo-Challenge? Simply identify the five geographic features or locations below and you will be in the running to win a copy of Global Mapper.

Prize | Global Mapper: GIS, only better

With a rapidly expanding worldwide user community, Global Mapper is changing the way people think about GIS. Offering support for over 300 spatial file formats and boasting a surprising collection of powerful data processing and analysis tools, Global Mapper is a viable and genuinely affordable alternative to traditional GIS applications.  So while you’re waiting to see if you are the lucky winner, why not download a trail copy today and see for yourself.

Contest | The Geo-Challenge Happens Every Month

If you miss out this time around, not to worry, Blue Marble is giving away a copy of Global Mapper every month. Check out Blue Marble Monthly for details.

Ready, Set, Go …

View the form at Google Forms >

4DMapper Emphasizes the Importance of Cloud-Based Data Management and the Role Global Mapper SDK Plays in Their Processing Platform

4DMapper is a cloud-based geospatial platform for enterprise, providing customers with workflow tools for asset inspection, virtual surveying, photogrammetry, and geospatial analytics.

The Global Mapper SDK has empowered countless software developers to create a wide array of powerful and innovative geospatial applications and none more so that Australia-based 4DMapper. Recently, Blue Marble teamed up with 4DMapper to produce a video illustrating common workflows in Global Mapper and how they can now be performed in 4DMapper’s cloud-based platform. We also chatted with COO, Paul Douriaguine about the company why they chose the Global Mapper SDK.

What is the story of 4DMapper? What products or services do you offer?

4DMapper is a cloud-based geospatial platform for enterprise, enabling customers’ 3D maps and models with workflow tools for asset inspection, virtual surveying, photogrammetry, and geospatial analytics. It lets you manage, visualize, process, share and collaborate on your geospatial data… all this with just a web browser!

From its early days, 4DMapper’s mission has been to make geospatial data readily accessible to professionals and non-technical decision makers alike. By doing so, we are helping our customers unlock the value of their geospatial data for their enterprises.

4DMapper Pty Ltd is an Australian technology company formed in early 2014 by highly experienced geospatial professionals Rob Klau and Adam Chabok. At the time geospatial data was processed on desktops, required expensive hardware, highly specialist skills to interpret, and was very slow and unwieldy to move around (typical delivery was via hard drive in the mail). The duo recognized a void in effective delivery of geospatial data to people who need it. Joined by a group of elite software engineers (ex-Google lead techs) they’ve developed a platform for streaming these massive files without the need for expensive software or hardware. The First version of 4DMapper was released in July 2015.

4DMapper environment
The 4DMapper environment with tools on the left. 4DMapper offers tools for photogrametry, LiDAR analysis, terrain analysis, and image analysis powered by the Global Mapper SDK.

Can you explain the name? What are the four Ds?

4DMapper is a set of tools and workflows to accurately map our physical world and bring it into the powerful world of virtual surveying and 3D asset inspection, geospatial analytics, artificial intelligence, and big data.

As for the “D”s – the first three “D”s are the dimensions of our physical world, accurately represented via absolute geospatial coordinates. The fourth “D” is to capture the change or variability of the world, being as it changes over time (e.g. repeat inspection of a mining site or building rooftops), change of a particular attribute of real-life objects (e.g. corrosion or fault detection on cell towers) or some other variability of metadata about the real-life object (e.g. pattern recognition in mineral exploration, NDVI analysis in agriculture, geospatial analytics in mapping and surveying applications)

4DMapper's Layer Manager
A 3D model of a crash site in 4DMapper’s layer manager environment.

Why do you think it is important to be able to manage geospatial data on the cloud?

There are many reasons for cloud’s growing popularity. The three most important ones in our view are:

  • The Cloud empowers – elastic computing and infinitely scalable data storage removes the need for expensive software and hardware driving significant savings for the businesses
  • The Cloud connects – it’s ability to facilitate business transactions creates numerous win-win opportunities and drives growth for geospatial providers and their customers
  • The Cloud enables – it makes data readily available to people who need it when they need it, thus unlocking the value of geospatial data and insights for enterprises

When did you first become aware of Global Mapper?

Like many other geospatial professionals we have grown with Global Mapper, first came across it at university when doing surveying / photogrammetry / remote sensing degrees many years ago, have been using it ever since.

Why did you choose the Global Mapper SDK to provide 3D data manipulation tools to your users?

Global Mapper provides a set of powerful tools, and it has been a de-facto industry standard and a tool of choice for many professionals for decades. When we looked at the options – the choice was obvious.

Processing Services in 4DMapper
The Processing Services dialogue box in 4DMapper shows the photogrammetry, LiDAR analysis, terrain analysis, and image analysis tools that are powered by the Global Mapper SDK.

Your website talks about how 4DMapper was conceived in response to the lack of affordable and effective ways to deliver geospatial data to people who need it. What are some of the challenges you faced in the GIS industry leading up to the first release of 4DMapper in 2015? And what challenges are you facing today?

4DMapper was conceived to tackle a major problem of efficient delivery of large geospatial data to people who needed it. When the first version of 4DMapper was developed and released in 2015, we quickly came to the realization that it was some years ahead of its time and the market wasn’t quite ready for it. The cloud offering was immature slowing its adoption by conservative industries such as mining, building and construction, insurance, and government. At that point in time, most of the serious geospatial software was still available on desktops only, cloud processing was a novel idea with no major vendors offering cloud-based photogrammetry or analytics services. 4DMapper’s team has worked with some of the major vendors assisting them with the development of their cloud offerings.

The world of geospatial has moved on since those days. Cloud is becoming well accepted not only for data storage but for processing alike. However, a new challenge has emerged in that the advancements in geospatial data acquisition technologies seem to be outpacing data management and processing capabilities creating a so-called data deluge. Now the penny has dropped, and the fast-growing demand for information is driving the increased requirement for keeping geospatial data management tools simple and intuitive.  Luckily, 4DMapper’s approach to working with geospatial data was exactly that – usability has been a primary concern to keep the tools simple and intuitive yet sophisticated and powerful. These days there is a proliferation of point solutions, multiple unconnected tools, highlighting a need for an enterprise-grade geospatial platform.

Contours Generated by Processing Service
Contours overlaying this 3D model were generated using a service powered by the Global Mapper SDK.

What Global Mapper SDK functionality do you think is, or will be, most useful or popular among your users?

The whole suite… that’s the nature of Global Mapper, it’s not just one tool – it’s a professionals’ toolbox. 4DMapper would like to make most Global Mapper functionality available on our platform. So far we only released a small subset of Global Mapper tools as a pilot. We are looking for feedback on what you would like to see prioritized for the upcoming releases.

Can you share an interesting or surprising project that you’ve seen your platform used for?

We don’t get to see the data our customers host on 4DMapper. Our customer data always belongs to them, we recognize the importance of data ownership and take data security and privacy very seriously. Unless our customer’s share their projects with us, we don’t have visibility of them.

Having said that, one of our recent projects that went viral when the customer shared it on social media was a beautiful 3D model of a Fire Department training center. The mesh model was created using Bentley Context Capture, a data format natively supported by 4DMapper (we also support Agisoft, Autodesk, and soon Pix4D models). When posted on LinkedIn the project instantly gained a lot of eyeballs for its accuracy, elegancy, and a visual appeal.

We have many other interesting projects that have been shared with us by the customers from all walks of life – large mining sites, agriculture farms, rooftop inspections, powerlines, bridges, offshore oil and gas platforms, critical infrastructure, and large scale high-accuracy 3D models of major cities. 4DMapper is a scalable enterprise platform for managing a wide variety of geospatial data.

How do you see the integration of the Global Mapper SDK into your online platform impacting your future business development?

Integrating Global Mapper SDK is a major step toward realizing our vision of building an ecosystem that would connect geospatial professionals and facilitate business transactions. Only launched as a pilot, Global Mapper tools already generating interest from our existing customers. We can only imagine what it will be like when more Global Mapper tools are made available on 4DMapper.

What do you think the future of geospatial data processing and delivery looks like?

Geospatial is again a rapidly evolving industry. We don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future, but there are some trends we are seeing that are likely to continue and accelerate:

  • 3D is rapidly becoming a new norm, so is cloud-based delivery and collaboration
  • majority of geospatial data will be stored on the cloud, data processing will undoubtedly follow suit and move to the cloud too
  • simplicity and usability will be a major requirement as geospatial data gets higher adoption and becomes more relied on by non-technical decision makers

Blue Marble and 4DMapper Collaborate

Recently 4DMapper and Blue Marble Geographics collaborated on an online webcast. A recording of this presentation is available here.

For more information on 4DMapper or to sign up for a free trial, visit http://4DMapper.com

Global Mapper Licenses and You!: Single User and Network Licenses

Illustration by Chelsea Ellis
How do you choose what Global Mapper license is best for you? It’s simple. All you have to do is ask yourself a few quick questions.

Congratulations, you have decided to evaluate Global Mapper! You know that Global Mapper will be a great addition to your GIS workflow, but now you face a decision; what kind of license do you need? We can help you find a license solution that will work best for you! Who are we? We are Carrie and Rachael, sales support specialists and unofficial license gurus. So, we know when it comes to selecting a license solution there are a few questions that you need to ask yourself: How many computers do I need to license? Do I need to access the software remotely? Do I want to share the software with co-workers?

How many computers will the software be on?

A seemingly simple question can save you time and money. If you are purchasing the software for yourself, and the license will reside on one computer, then a single-user license, sometimes called a node-locked license may be the best option for you!

Illustration by Chelsea Ellis
How many computers will the software be on? If you are purchasing the software for yourself, and the license will reside on one computer, then a single user license may be the best option for you.

The single-user, machine locked license is registered to one computer. The license itself is written to your computer’s Ethernet port (using the MAC ID, must be static). However, if you have a Windows 2-in-1 laptop or tablet you may have difficulty licensing your computer. This is because some of these devices might not have a stable Ethernet port. Should you encounter this problem, please contact our licensing team at authorize@bluemarblegeo.com.

If you have a single machine license and need to move it to another computer, there is a license removal tool you must use in order to generate the proper removal code needed to complete this process. This process can be automated; both the old and new machines must be connected to the internet during the removal or activation process. This allows your computer and the application to properly and quickly communicate with our licensing server. If you re-image your machine, perform an operating system upgrade, and/or change hardware, please properly remove the license BEFORE any updates are made. Please note that remote desktop (RDP/RDS) is incompatible with a single user license. If you are looking to utilize RDP/RDS, our network server licenses are compatible with this functionality.  The single machine license can be moved twice per year.

If you need to frequently move the license or share it with others, keep reading for more licensing solutions.

How many people will need access to the software?

Do you work with multiple Global Mapper users who need to concurrently access the software? Are they all in one office? Are they at different locations? Do they work from home on a remote desktop? Do you have a limited budget and want to get the most software? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then a network license may be the answer for you! Network licenses are sold with a minimum of two seats. In other words, while everyone in your company can install the software, only two users can use it any one time. We haven’t run into a maximum seat limit yet so if you need 100 seats, not a problem!

Global Mapper network licenseIllustration by Chelsea Ellis
The network license can be shared not only internally but also across office locations and the seat count is the number of concurrent licenses (users) that can be utilized at one time.

Network Licenses are a convenient and flexible way to manage a pool of licenses. Network licenses are designed to provide broad access to the software where an individual license will usually serve only one person. The network license can serve one or as many as you like depending on how frequently they use Global Mapper. The network license can be shared not only internally but also across office locations and the seat count is the number of concurrent licenses (users) that can be utilized at one time. Heading out of the office? Not a problem, the network license comes with a convenient borrow feature that allows for a license to be “checked out” and used off the network for a set period of up to 90 days. When that expires the license is automatically returned to the server. This feature is perfect for business trips, going out in the field, working from a ship, temporary employees or a vacation. Yes, you can even take Global Mapper on your vacation. Network administrators love this option as there is only one file to maintain and update. No need to track individuals or physical hardware.

If you are thinking to yourself, “these options are not what I am looking for,” that is okay! Blue Marble has four different licensing types, so we have two more options for you to choose from. In our next post we will be covering the USB Dongle and the Single Floating licenses (portable or virtual license with extreme flexibility).

If you want to learn more about how our license options can provide the best return on your investment please contact use directly, we love to talk about licensing! Send an email to orders@bluemarblegeo.com .


Carrie Strauch and Rachael Landry
Carrie Strauch and Rachael Landry

Carrie Strauch and Rachael Landry are the unofficial license guru’s and the official Sales Support team. Together they bring over 30 years of customer service expertise to Blue Marble. They are the people you are most likely to work with when you call or email our office, and they are always ready to answer questions.