Blue Marble Monthly: Getting Ready for Our Free Online Geospatial Conference

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

Can you believe it’s 2019 already? This year promises to be an exciting one for Blue Marble with ambitious plans already in place for the next generation of both Global Mapper and Geographic Calculator. The new year also sees us take a fresh approach to our annual conference. Blue Marble GeoTalks, scheduled for March 21, will be a daylong online gathering of geospatial enthusiasts who share a common interest in Blue Marble’s spatial technology. See below for more details and registration information.

Also in this month’s newsletter we explore the simple process for creating a 3D mesh from a point cloud in Global Mapper, we introduce mapcodes, we invite you to join us for a live webinar on the latest features and functions of Geographic Calculator, and as always, we gauge your geographic prowess in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge.

NEWS  |  Registration Open for Blue Marble GeoTalks

One of the inherent limitations of hosting a user conference at a specific location is the logistical and financial burden placed on both hosts and attendees. The solution? Move it online. Scheduled for March 21, Blue Marble GeoTalks will provide a forum for the worldwide Blue Marble community to gather for an exchange of ideas, to hear from a variety of industry experts, and to learn about what’s new and what’s upcoming from Blue Marble.

 

DID YOU KNOW  |  Searching by Mapcode in Global Mapper

While most of us are accustomed to conveying location based on a street number, street name, city, etc., in many parts of the world this information is simply not available. This inevitably causes problems for government officials, emergency responders, and many others. To address this disparity, a system of alphanumeric mapcodes was developed in 2001 creating a simple and universally accepted spatial reference system for the entire world. Global Mapper’s search function supports the entry of a mapcode to locate a specific point or to generate the corresponding coordinates. If you want to try it for yourself, select Find Address from Global Mapper’s Search menu and enter the following: “ME XBY.JS”. Add some online imagery and you should see the Blue Marble headquarters in Hallowell, Maine.

 

VIDEOS | Creating a 3D Model from a Point Cloud

One of the highlights of the version 20 release of Global Mapper is a new tool for generating a 3D mesh or model from a selection of LiDAR or other point cloud points. The resulting layer contains a complex vector feature comprised of an array of abutting triangles that, when displayed in Global Mapper’s 3D Viewer, take the form of a realistic three-dimensional representation of the object. As is typical with Global Mapper, the process of creating a 3D mesh is remarkably straightforward.

 

WEBINAR  |  What’s New in Geographic Calculator 2019

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the What’s New in Geographic Calculator 2019 webinar, which had been scheduled for January 10, has been moved to January 17. Those who registered should have received an email with the updated information and we hope you can still make it to this live presentation. The good news is that there is still time to sign up. Join us as we explore the latest updates to the software’s data processing tools and to the underlying geodetic datasource.

 

Deadline Extended for Global Mapper Academic Scholarship

Over the last two years, hundreds of colleges and universities throughout North America have taken advantage of Blue Marble’s free academic licensing program and have been able to introduce more and more students to the broad field of geospatial technology. To recognize and reward some of the creative work being done in labs and classrooms, Blue Marble is offering a $500 scholarship to a student who has used Global Mapper in their field of study. The deadline for submission has just been extended to the end of January, which means there is still time to share the details of your project.

 

 

Where in the World Geo-Challenge

Someone, who has obviously been participating in the Geo-Challenge for some time, recently inquired if we were beginning to run out of countries or capitals. Fear not, we have a long way to go, and if the need arises, we can ultimately recycle what we’ve used before. So it pays to follow along.

January’s winner and recipient of a copy of Global Mapper is Nirmalya Maitra from Riddhi Management Services in Kolkata, India. To see how well you fared, click here and to take a shot at January’s challenge click the link below.

 

See complete terms and conditions here.

EVENTS  |  Global Mapper Training in 2019

After our recent announcement about the tentative locations for Global Mapper training classes in 2019, we were inundated with inquiries. Registration is now open for the classes in Orlando in March, Denver in April, and Ottawa in June. Space is limited so be sure to reserve a slot at your preferred venue as soon as possible.

For those with a more immediate need for training, there is still space in the three-day class to be conducted at Blue Marble’s headquarters in Maine from January 29 – 31.

Additional training locations for 2019 include:

Orlando  |  March 12 – 14, December (TBD)

Denver  |  April 9 – 11

Ottawa  |  June 11 – 13

Australia  |  July (TBD)

Calgary  |  August (TBD)

Houston  |  October (TBD)

Where in the World Geo-Challenge – January 2019

View the form at Google Forms >

Blue Marble Monthly – November 2017 GIS Newsletter

Satellite Imagery

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

After the Global Mapper 19 release, Blue Marble refocuses its efforts on the next item on the docket — the LiDAR Module. In November’s newsletter, we give users a sneak peek of what to expect from the upcoming release of the module. We also take a look at what happens behind the scenes of software development, such as the “foils and follies” of collecting drone imagery described in a blog entry by Blue Marble President, Patrick Cunningham. Finally, and as always, we challenge your geographic knowledge in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge with a brand new copy of Global Mapper 19 up for grabs for the lucky winner.

LiDAR data

Product News | Drone Imagery to Point Cloud

The saying “you usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for” couldn’t be more true for the version 19 release of the Global Mapper LiDAR Module. Since its introduction in version 15 the LiDAR Module has offered an increasingly powerful set of tools for editing, classifying, and extracting features from LiDAR and other point cloud formats.

The pending release of the version 19 edition will elevate the module to the next level by offering a simple tool for generating a dense point cloud from overlapping imagery. Tailor-made for the rapidly emerging professional UAV market, this powerful feature was previewed at the recent Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas and received universal acclaim.

Keep an eye on your inbox for an announcement about the availability of the Module.

Drone at Blue Marble headquarters

Projections | Foils and Follies of Drone Data Collection

Recently, the Blue Marble team took on the challenge of collecting drone imagery of their headquarters for the purpose of testing some exciting new features coming soon to Global Mapper. Stepping into the fairly new commercial UAV field comes with a handful of lessons and hurdles, from actually flying the drone to understanding legal and safety concerns. In this blog entry, Blue Marble Geographics President, Patrick Cunningham describes the most important lesson learned from the team’s UAV experience — things don’t always go as planned.

 

Hyperlinks in Global Mapper

Did You Know? | Hyperlinks in Global Mapper

Did you know that Global Mapper offers a tool for embedding a hyperlink within any point, line, or polygon, allowing you to associate an external file or even a website with a defined geographic location? The linked file or files are accessed using the Feature Info tool and will trigger the launch of whatever software is associated with that file type. Adding a link can be done manually by typing the file path or URL as an attribute value when creating or editing a vector feature, or by clicking the Add File Link(s) button in the Modify Feature Info dialog box. For a creative and extremely useful application of this functionality, try linking to a Global Mapper workspace file from a point feature that has been placed at the location of the corresponding job site or project location. This a great way to streamline data management by providing one-click access to all of your workspaces in a single reference map.

 

Screenshot of Attribute Editor

Webinars | What’s New in Global Mapper 19

Our latest webinar, which was recorded live in October, showcases the highlights of Global Mapper 19.

As with all previous releases, version 19 includes numerous functional enhancements and performance improvements throughout many areas of the software. Among the specific topics covered in the webinar were:

  • New Attribute Editor
  • Interactive Hillshade Control
  • Drag and drop window docking
  • 3D Viewer improvements
  • New online data sources
  • Several new built-in raster calculation formulas
  • And much more

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.

 

November 2017 Geo-Challenge

Where in the World Geo-Challenge

Thank you to all who submitted an entry in October’s Where in the World Geo-Challenge. Check out the answers here. The randomly drawn winner and the recipient of a copy of Global Mapper is Ian James from HiSeis Pty Ltd. This month, in response to several comments that the challenge is “too easy”, we upped the ante just a little. A copy of Global Mapper is being offered to the winner so why not take the challenge.

 

See complete terms and conditions here. 

 

GEO1 Hangar

BMUC LA Rescheduled | Conference to be Held in June

Due to reasons beyond our control, the Blue Marble User Conference planned forNovember 15 at the Hawthorne Municipal Airport in Los Angeles had to be rescheduled to June 8, 2018. The conference will be held in partnership with GEO1 and will include an onsite drawing for attendees to win a helicopter tour of the city. At the end of the event, winners will accompany GEO1 technicians on a flight over LA as they simulate their aerial data collection workflow. Space is limited, so sign up today. Look out for announcements about the BMUC 2018 locations and schedule.

Upcoming Events

Visit Blue Marble at the following events:

Fall Northeast Arc User Group Conference | Newport, RI | November 5 – 8

Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) | Orlando, FL | November 27 – December 1

GeoData 2017 London Showcase | London, UK | November 30

Where in the World October 2017 Answers

Name the country – Djibouti

Djibouti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the river – The St. Lawrence River

The St. Lawrence River

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Name the island – Borneo
Borneo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the capital city – Lisbon
Lisbon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the mountain range – The Pyrenees
The Pyrenees

The Foils and Follies of Drone Data Collection

Drone collects imageryChelsea E | Projections
A drone flies over the Blue Marble Geographics headquarters in Hallowell, Maine collecting imagery to be used in software testing.

Over the past few months, the Blue Marble team has taken on the challenge of collecting drone imagery of our property for testing exciting new features coming soon to Global Mapper. As we began to step into the fairly new commercial UAV field, we realized that there are few assumptions we can make. First of all, there is a learning curve that comes with simply flying a drone to take pictures or collect imagery. There are also a number of legal hurdles, safety concerns, and practical challenges to consider. We needed guidance as we began this initiative, from which we learned a few important lessons.

Drone Flight Concerns and Considerations

Though it appears to be a relatively simple technical challenge, flying a drone has legal and safety considerations that were readily apparent to us but may not be common knowledge. Our first concern was that the Blue Marble headquarters are only about a mile and half, as the crow (or should I say UAV) flies, from the Augusta State Airport. Small planes fly overhead frequently and quite low at times. We were not sure if our building was located near banned airspace. Our second concern was that our property abuts the Hall-Dale elementary school playground. A location that is full of children three or four times a day during business hours. What if we crashed in the school yard while children were at recess? What a PR nightmare.

These concerns about the airport and school property were enough to stall us from simply buying or building a drone, and prompted us to seek guidance. Fortunately for us, the University of Maine at Augusta offers an unmanned aerial vehicle training course taught by certified pilots. A quick call to one of the faculty members for more information resulted in the gentlemen visiting our offices to conduct some test flights and to share a bit of their knowledge with us. We learned a great deal even from our first test.

Programming drone flight pathChelsea E | Projections
Certified UAV pilot Dan Leclair uses his laptop to set up a flight path for a drone to fly over the Blue Marble Geographics headquarters in Hallowell, Maine.

Setting Up the Drone for Flight

Certified pilots Dan Leclair and Greg Gilda joined us at our office on a beautiful, clear and wind-free day in early October. They confirmed that we could fly over our property with some stipulations, despite our location near a commercial airport. As a precaution, the gentlemen brought with them a hand-held radio to monitor pilot communication in the area as we set up our flight path. They also reassured us that there was little chance of the drone flying off of our property during school recess, since the drone would be programmed and flown on autopilot. Dan and Greg shared a litany of information about how the drones now have homing devices, automatically avoid collisions with structures, and fly on a pre-programmed flight pattern. If, for some reason, it did fly over school property, we could manually fly it back. We also learned that the drone must stay within our view to remain in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation, which was no problem. We weren’t flying a large area anyway.

As we chose and programmed the drone flight path with a laptop, the pilots focused on a very common issue for us GIS folks — proper elevation above ground. Since we are located in the descent path of planes landing at the airport, we needed to keep the drone relatively low to avoid any potential, and of course unwanted, collisions with an aircraft. We decided that we would fly at 100 feet above ground on a path that was 1,793 feet long and would take about 3 minutes.

Drone cameraChelsea E | Projections
We also set up the drone camera for the light conditions, and programmed it to capture an image every two seconds during the flight.

The software the pilots used had some short comings in that the user had to manually select points for the back-and-forth flight path we wanted. As a software guy, this seemed tedious. I would rather draw a quick polygon or box around my area of interest and have that converted to a flight pattern. Perhaps that could be a new feature for Global Mapper Mobile in the future? In this case, our area of interest was our building, so it did not take long to manually designate the flight pattern by selecting waypoints for the drone to fly back and forth. We also set up the drone camera for the light conditions, and programmed it to capture an image every two seconds during the flight. One practical lesson we learned was that a good staging area for the laptop is preferable on a sunny day. We used the back of an SUV for the shade, so we could see the laptop screen and comfortably program the software.

After a bit of work we were ready to fly.

Rotors are attached to droneChelsea E | Projections
Certified UAV pilot Greg Gilda puts the rotors on the drone before it’s sent on a flight path over the Blue Marble headquarters.

Flying the Drone and Collecting Data

We set the drone on a circular landing pad made of nylon near the back of our property. Greg attached the rotor blades, very carefully I might add. The blades attach rather easily to the quad copter by snapping into place. Dan explained that this step was done before turning the drone on, saying something to the effect of “you don’t want to lose a finger”.

Once the UAV was ready to fly we all stepped back. Dan launched it into the air with the touch of a button or two, and the drone began its pre-programmed flight path. For those experienced pilots, you might notice that we did not discuss ground control. More on that in a later blog entry, I suppose, but these early tests were not including that. The flight went seamlessly and Dan only took over manual control as he brought the drone in for a landing — a personal preference of his.

Everything seemed to progress well but we quickly learned that the drone ended up capturing only video (see below) and not still photography. A few more attempts later, we sadly learned that we would not be able to collect still imagery that day. Apparently there was some incompatibility with the flight planning software and the drone. Not to fear, they agreed to return another day after a software update to collect the imagery. So perhaps the most important lesson of the day was that, despite the best laid plans of mice and men, things do not always go as planned with drone data collection. If you’re interested in learning some more about the foils and follies of drone data collection visit this handy resource:  http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/

We’ll have more to share with you on this process and, of course, what we are doing with the data soon.

 


Patrick Cunningham


Patrick Cunningham is the President of Blue Marble Geographics. He has two decades of experience in software development, marketing, sales, consulting, and project management.  Under his leadership, Blue Marble has become the world leader in coordinate conversion software (the Geographic Calculator) and low cost GIS software with the 2011 acquisition of Global Mapper. Cunningham is Chair of the Maine GIS Users Group, a state appointed member of the Maine Geolibrary Board, a member of the NEURISA board, a GISP and holds a masters in sociology from the University of New Hampshire.

What is BMUC? | An Embodiment of Blue Marble Values

Sam Knight speaks at BMUCChelsea E | Projections
Blue Marble Geographics’ Product Manager Sam Knight presents the latest features in Geographic Calculator 2017 to Blue Marble User Conference attendees in South Portland, Maine.

In my first couple of weeks as graphic designer at Blue Marble Geographics in 2016, I heard my coworkers use an unfamiliar term in our marketing meetings. They said things like: “do we have bee-muck speakers yet?”; or “when is the bee-muck e-mail going out?”; or “the bee-muck numbers are looking good so far.”

What the heck is a “bee-muck”?!

BMUC Amsterdam
Blue Marble Geographics took the BMUC experience to Amsterdam in spring of 2017.

I figured it was one of dozens of conferences that Blue Marble attends each year, like AUVSI or InterGeo, and not a term used to describe mud on a yellow and black insect pollinator. “Bee-muck” is actually how the Blue Marble team pronounces the acronym BMUC for Blue Marble User Conference, and BMUC is not just another event the company attends. It’s a series of conferences organized by Blue Marble in cities around North America (and sometimes the world) to show appreciation for the users of Blue Marble software. The one-day conferences offer users a chance to chat face-to-face with Blue Marble team members, to hear success stories from GIS peers, and to share a meal with everyone. I admit, I was skeptical when I heard the “share a meal” part. But when Blue Marble hosted a BMUC in Maine, I had the opportunity to take part in the rich experience the conferences actually have to offer.

Product News that Fosters a Collaborative Culture

At every BMUC, Blue Marble software specialists give talks on the latest product news. During the presentations at the Maine conference, I noticed one phrase that prefaced most of the announcements about new software developments — “We received requests for this feature.”

Patrick Cunningham speaks at BMUCChelsea E | Projections
Blue Marble Geographics President Patrick Cunningham welcomes attendees to the Blue Marble User Conference in Maine.

Global Mapper and Geographic Calculator have evolved into the cutting edge software they are today because of user feedback. Whether a user emails, calls, sends a Facebook message, or speaks to a staff member at a BMUC or other conference, the team at Blue Marble hears and considers what that user has to say. A couple of examples of user-requested features that were highlighted at the Maine BMUC were Global Mapper’s advanced attribute editor, which allows for streamlined editing of data assigned to map features; and the real-time hillshading feature, which allows for dynamic positioning of a light source by clicking and dragging a sun icon.

When asked about what new features of Global Mapper v19 came from user requests, Product Manager Sam Knight began listing them off:

  • The new attribute editor function
  • Playing multiple videos attached to a feature
  • The dynamic hillshading control
  • All the new raster band math formulae, which include Normalized Difference Snow Index (NDSI) and Advanced Vegetation Index (AVI)
  • Drag and drop docking for the 3D viewer and path profile
  • Exporting/importing flythrough paths

After giving this handful of examples, he stopped himself and said, “Actually, literally every significant new feature is a user request.”

The point I’m trying to make is that the product news shared at BMUCs not only keeps users in the loop, but it also fosters the collaborative culture that makes Blue Marble software great. It lets users know that they have a hand in improving these already powerful tools.

Alex Gray speaks at BMUCChelsea E | Projections
GIS Specialist Alex Gray of GEI Consultants Inc. presents on a hydrology analysis for which he used Global Mapper to create digital terrain models.

Peer-to-Peer Learning in the GIS Community

There are at least two guest speakers at every BMUC, who share their real-life experiences using Blue Marble products. These professionals come from a variety of GIS backgrounds — from oil and gas to filmmaking; from city planning to conservation. While members of the Blue Marble team bring their software expertise to the BMUC agenda, the stories from others in the GIS community add valuable outside perspectives.

Thea Youngs speaks at BMUCChelsea E | Projections
GIS Specialist Thea Youngs presents on how she uses Global Mapper for LiDAR processing in city projects for Portland, Maine.

At the Maine BMUC, attendees heard from GIS Specialist Thea Youngs, who uses Global Mapper for Portland city projects. She explained how the software fits in her workflow, and how fast it is to view and select an area of interest from a large point cloud. “Global Mapper helps with making LiDAR data play better with drafting software.” She also commended Global Mapper for its extensive list of supported file formats, since her work sometimes deals with older and less common formats.

Attendees also heard from GIS Specialist Alex Gray of GEI Consultants Inc., whose presentation focused on a hydrology analysis for which he created digital terrain models from a combination of LiDAR and sonar data in Global Mapper.

While both speakers use Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module for their powerful point cloud processing functionality, both work with very different workflows and could provide unique ideas on how to use the software. The presentations, as well as the variety of occupations in the BMUC audience, exemplified how versatile Global Mapper is and how BMUCs are a great place to share tips on how to use the software.

Let’s Call it Lunch, not “Networking”

It’s probably safe to say that the word “lunch” elicits a positive reaction from more people than the word “networking”. I mean, who can’t bond over a good sandwich?

BMUC lunchChelsea E | Projections
Attendees line up for lunch at the Maine Blue Marble User Conference.

During lunch at the Maine BMUC, attendees had the opportunity to share their own stories, ask more questions, discuss projects with their peers, and to make connections in their local GIS community. I was able to hear from attendees about what developments they’d like to see from Blue Marble in the near future, like the ability to create point clouds from drone imagery, which is actually something that Blue Marble is currently testing.

Other than providing lunch, Blue Marble also offers opportunities to win prizes such as T-shirts and a license of the latest version of Global Mapper. At the Maine BMUC, this opportunity came in the form of a “Name That Country” game, in which attendees had to identify countries from a series of slides.

An Affordable and Rich GIS Experience

After the conference, two thoughts struck me as I drank a beer with my co-workers and BMUC attendees who were able to join us for happy hour. My first thought: How cool is it that this small company can serve customers all over the world and still have intimate events like BMUCs? Second: BMUCs truly embody the user-focused mission of Blue Marble.

They are an affordable opportunity (only $25 to register) to gain insights from company experts and other GIS professionals; to meet new people in the GIS community; to win a copy of the latest version of Global Mapper; to have an opinion about a Blue Marble software and to have it heard; and did I mention lunch?

As I write this entry, the Blue Marble team is planning its BMUC 2018 schedule. Drop us a line at bmuc@bluemarblegeo.com if you’d like to see this experience come to your neck of the woods, and keep an eye on the BMUC page to find out where we will be next.

There’s an abundance of knowledge to be shared in the GIS and Blue Marble community, and BMUC is a tap on the barrel. Cheers!


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.