Five Reasons Why You Should Attend a Blue Marble User Conference

Patrick Cunningham at BMUC 2018Chelsea E | Projections
Blue Marble President Patrick Cunningham welcomes attendees at the Blue Marble User Conference 2018 in Portland. He talked about the use of Global Mapper by organizations such as NASA, GolfLogix, BGC Engineering, and more.

 

On September 21, one of the most prestigious geospatial events took place!

 

via GIPHY

 

You guessed it! It was the 25th Anniversary Blue Marble User Conference.

So, there might be a chance that you haven’t actually heard of this event. That’s ok! I’m writing this to convince you that, whether you are a Blue Marble software user or not, you should know about this conference.

Here are the five reasons why you should join us at the Blue Marble User Conference next year:


Mike Childs at BMUC 2018Chelsea E | Projections
Mike Childs, the Global Mapper Guru, responds to a question from a conference attendee.

1. I’m there! … and Global Mapper architects, developers, and experts are too

Chelsea E | Projections
Channel Account Manager Myles LaBonte (left) and Blue Marble reseller Laurent Martin (right) after the Blue Marble User Conference. Laurent, who traveled almost 5,000 miles to attend the conference, says that he’s always felt like he is a part of the Blue Marble team.

Yes, I’m there running around taking pictures and recording video (and eating the food), but what’s more valuable to you are the software developers and resellers who are there to hear your questions and requests.

This particular Blue Marble User Conference was especially valuable because the Global Mapper guru Mike Childs and our international resellers were there. After the day’s presentations and software demonstrations were over, Mike answered questions and heard software  suggestions from attendees while our product manager jotted down the ideas.

It’s a part of Blue Marble’s core values to welcome and encourage users to be part of the development process. That user-to-developer communication is usually in the form of emails, but at a Blue Marble conference, users can communicate directly with the experts and know their ideas will make it to a discussion in our development meetings.


Larry Mayer at BMUC 2018Chelsea E | Projections
Larry Mayer presents on advancements in sonar and visualization technology for exploring the sea floor at the Blue Marble User Conference 2018 in Portland, Maine.

2. You will be inspired by presentations from distinguished GIS professionals

Did you know that scientists know more about the surfaces of Mars and the moon than they do of the Earth’s ocean floor – aka 75% of the world’s surface? I didn’t.

At this Blue Marble User Conference, Larry Mayer, Director of the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering and Director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire (phew! Long title!), delivered a presentation on the advancements in sonar and visualization technology for exploring the sea floor. He explained how the technology has helped in the discovery of 3,000-meter high mountains in the Arctic, D-day wrecks, the behavior of whales, and the history of climate through the impact of ice on the sea floor. He touted that investing in more ocean research would help us, people of the world, gain a better understanding of our planet.

Chelsea E | Projections
Ron Chapple, CEO of Aerial Filmworks, discusses his role in the making of the Pulitzer Prize-winning documentary “The Wall”.

Our second keynote speaker and CEO of Aerial Filmworks, Ron Chapple took attendees from exploring the deep with Larry to examining the Earth from above. Ron talked about the challenges that came with producing the Pulitzer Prize-winning documentary “The Wall”, which analyzes the impact of the proposed wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. His role in the project was to shoot aerial footage, over which he highlighted the location of the 2,000-mile long border using Global Mapper.

I was surprised to learn how difficult it was for the team of “The Wall” to accurately represent the curvy U.S.-Mexico border in the video.

My point is that BMUC includes amazing presentations by distinguished GIS professionals that give insight into projects that are relevant to the industry today.


David McKittrick at BMUC 2018Chelsea E | Projections
David McKittrick, Senior Applications Specialist, offers “Tips and Tricks” on how to use Global Mapper at the Blue Marble User Conference 2018 in Portland, Maine.

3. You will leave smarter and gain Global Mapper “Tips and Tricks”

In between presentations at this year’s BMUC, Senior Applications Specialist David McKittrick took a few minutes to share some “tips and tricks” on how to use Global Mapper. The tips ranged from how to use the multiview display, smooth contours, view data in Google Earth, and create a terrain cutaway.

David also presented on the recent release of Global Mapper 20 and the LiDAR Module, which offers streamlined map layout tools, the ability to create a point cloud from a 3D mesh, a new eyedropper tool for selecting features, dramatically faster loading speeds for working with vector files, and a lot more.

All of these demonstrations were followed by an opportunity for attendees to ask questions that would help them apply these techniques to their own projects.


Larry Mayer talking with BMUC 2018 attendeesChelsea E | Projections
Larry Mayer answers questions after his presentation at the Blue Marble User Conference 2018 in Portland, Maine.

4. You will eat with other GIS professionals and have a chance to win a prize

Geo-Challenge Tie Breaker
The Tie Breaker slide. Can you name all the countries that were once collectively Yugoslavia?

Throughout the day, drinks and snacks were available, and at noon we provided lunch. During lunch, we challenged our attendees to participate in a Where in the World Geo-Challenge, in which they were asked to guess the names of geographic features in a slideshow.

At this year’s BMUC, we came prepared with a tiebreaker question, since we expected that a room full of GIS professionals would easily be able to guess all of the features correctly. The winner of the challenge went home with a gift card to the Blue Marble Emporium.


Sam Knight, David McKittrick, and Mike Childs at BMUCChelsea E | Projections
Sam Knight, David McKittrick, and Mike Childs answer questions at the end of the Blue Marble User Conference in Portland, Maine.

5. You will spend only $25 to attend

So why wouldn’t you attend BMUC if it’s only $25 for a day full of GIS presentations, networking, and lunch?!

They had me at “lunch”, so … I’m not sure why you wouldn’t register.

Stay tuned for future Blue Marble User Conferences

All jokes aside, BMUC truly has a lot to offer GIS professionals, even if you aren’t a user of Blue Marble software. From the insights of our keynote speakers, to the latest software developments and one-on-one interactions with our experts, BMUC is a great opportunity to connect with Blue Marble staff, have a direct impact on the software you use, and to network with members of the GIS community.

So stay tuned for Blue Marble User Conferences near you by following us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, or by checking out Blue Marble User Conference page.


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.

US Fish & Wildlife Service: Global Mapper plays a key role in monitoring coastal habitats of mice

Gulf Island National Seashore
Imagery of the eastern end of Gulf Island National Seashore, Perdido Key, Florida, in 2010. This image is a mosaic of sand (light pixel) and vegetation (dark pixels) in the dune system in which the Perdido Key beach mice inhabit.

Monitoring a Coastal Dune Ecosystem

Cultivating a sense of moral responsibility for the environment involves more than public service announcements — it’s based on scientific knowledge.

A Peromyscus Polionotus

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works to conserve and protect natural resources, such as species on the federal endangered list, through observing changes in the environment and what those changes impact. As one of the bureaus of the Department of Interior, the agency chooses Global Mapper to assist in this environmental research.

The bureau’s Spatial Ecologist Paul A. Lang specifically monitors the habitat of three subspecies of beach mice:

  • St. Andrew beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus peninsularis)
  • Choctawhatchee beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus allophyrs)
  • Perdido Key beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus trissyllepsis)

The mice inhabit the coastal dune ecosystem along the northern Gulf Coast of Mexico in the panhandle of Florida – an area vulnerable to impacts due to tropical storm events and sea level rise. Lang is interested in gaining a greater understanding of the habitat for the long-term conservation of the beach mice. Lang uses Digital Terrain Models (DTMs) for 2015 in order to investigate sea level changes.

 

A Lack of High Resoultion DTMs

The most important consideration when embarking
on any GIS project is ensuring access to appropriate and clean data.

One of the challenges that Lang has faced in his work is the lack of a high resolution DTMs of the area in which the mice live for certain years. As a solution, Lang accessed publicly available Topobathy LiDAR data from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE). This high density point cloud data was collected aerially and was obtained directly from the USACE and from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) data clearinghouse.

In order to integrate this data into his research, Lang needed software that had the tools for generating accurate DTMs from the LiDAR data without a steep learning curve.

Raw LiDAR point cloud
The raw LiDAR point cloud with pre-classified ground points used in Global Mapper to generate the final DTM.

Generating DTMs in Global Mapper

Lang chose to use Global Mapper and the accompanying LiDAR Module for his habitat mapping.

With a few simple steps, he generated the high resolution DTMs he needed for his research. First, he imported the .las files into Global Mapper and cropped them down to the area of focus. After visualizing and examining the characteristics and metadata of the point clouds in the software, Lang determined that further classification and clean-up was unnecessary. Second, he examined the inherent statistics of the data to get a better sense of the resolution he could create in the resulting DTMs. Third, he used the Create Elevation Grid tool to generate several DTMs that tested different values of No Data distance in order to fill gaps in the point clouds. After these tests, Lang arrived at high resolution DTMs based on the LiDAR data he obtained from the USACE.

From there, Lang was able to use the Simulate Water Level Rise functionality in Global Mapper to visualize potential water inundation on the mice habitat.

Shell Island and St. Andrew State Park
Shell Island and St. Andrew State Park with the Choctawhatchee beach mice critical habitat boundaries overlaid.

The Benefits of Global Mapper

According to Lang, he chose Global Mapper for his analysis because he didn’t find other software as “straight-forward” for processing LiDAR data. Global Mapper’s easy-to-use platform allowed Lang to quickly and accurately generate the high resolution DTM he needed without taking time away from his research.

Global Mapper allows for easy visualization, editing, and filtering of LiDAR and other point cloud datasets. The addition of the LiDAR Module, expands this functionality with auto-classification tools, automatic and custom feature extraction, point filtering options, and numerous other point cloud editing capabilities.

1-meter DTM
The 1-meter DTM generated using the pre-classified ground points contained in the LiDAR data from USACE.

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

Since the early 1990s, Blue Marble Geographics has been a pioneer in the development of powerful and innovative geospatial software. Widely regarded for its expertise in coordinate conversion and file format support, Blue Marble’s products include Geographic Calculator, the paradigm for highly accurate spatial data conversion and advanced projection management; Global Mapper, a fully-functional and affordable GIS application; and the Global Mapper LiDAR Module, a suite of powerful point cloud processing tools.

Blue Marble Monthly – LiDAR vs PhoDAR and Becoming a Pilot

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.

NEWS | BMUC is Coming to Portland, Maine

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”.

 

PROJECTIONS | Becoming an UAS Pilot

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.

 

PRODUCT NEWS | Call for Beta Testers

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.

 

DID YOU KNOW? | LiDAR vs Photogrammetric Point Clouds

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.

USER STORY | Planning Truck Stops with Global Mapper

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

 

 

VIDEOS | Can Your GIS Do This Without Extensions?

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.

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

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.

 

See complete terms and conditions here.

EVENTS | Global Mapper Training in Houston

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

 

Where in the World July 2018 Answers

How Well Did You Do?

Name the country – Monaco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the mountain – Denali (Mt McKinley)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the body of water – White Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Acropolis of Athens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the capital city – Canberra

 

Our 25th Summer: Blue Marble Clothing Tips

Welcome to summer! The heat is here and so is the Blue Marble Emporium. We are celebrating our 25th summer as a company and we have some merchandise for our fans! From hitting the beach to hitting the streets we have the t- shirts for you. Our new top five shirts will provide you with fashion tips that will Hundo P* improve your summer!

Are you off to the lake? Well we have the look for you!

Mind the Gap Between World and Map T-Shirt

Simply add a fedora, dark glasses, and compass to complete the look!

Compass tattoo, shades, and fedora

 

Did you forget the sunscreen? Cover up in style!

Notorious BMG T-shirt

A scarf and your phone or tablet put a twist on this classic look.

Tablet with Global Mapper Mobile installed, and a scarf

Hitting the links this summer?

Later Mercator polo

I have no suggestions for this, but this handy golf style article does!

Are you basically 30? So are we! Here is the perfect outfit to stay home in!

We’re Mappy and We Know It (25th Anniversary) T-shirt

Just pair it with:

Netflix and cozy sweats

Need a little California style?

GIS is Not a Four Letter Word shirt

Make this look your own, but be on the lookout for these two sporting similar t-shirts on the streets of San Diego!

Blue Marble employees Kat and Danielle at the EsriUC in San Diego in 2017.

Disclaimer: Wearing a shirt from the Blue Marble Emporium may not actually make you look like the models in this article.

*Hundo P – One hundred percent sure of something

*This article was written by a millennial.


Rachael Landry

Rachael Landry is one of Blue Marble’s license gurus on the official Sales Support team. She is one of the people you are most likely to work with when you call or email our office, and she is always ready to answer your questions.
Please send all your fan mail to orders@bluemarblegeo.com.

Reseller Spotlight: South Africa-Based SMC Synergy

SMC Synergy
Dirk Pretorius (second from left), Blaise Kumba (third from left), and Renier Balt (center at a recent customized Global Mapper training session.

Thus far, our Reseller Spotlight series has taken us from Northern Europe to South America. This month, we shift our focus to the African Continent as we hear from Renier Balt from South Africa-based SMC Synergy. Widely regarded as a challenging market to penetrate, Africa has seen a significant expansion in the use of Global Mapper over recent years thanks in no short measure to the efforts and endeavor of Renier and his partner, Dirk Pretorius.  We convinced Renier to take a short break from his Global Mapper outreach efforts to share some insights into his experience working with Blue Marble.

Tell us a little bit about your company, SMC Synergy?

SMC Synergy based in South Africa, was accepted as a Reseller of Blue Marble Geographics in May 2013 and is the preferred distributor of Global Mapper GIS software in Africa. Our experience in the fields of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing applications in all sectors (such as Agriculture, Environment and Mining) spans more than 30 years.

SMC provides Global Mapper training, accredited by Blue Marble and the South African Geomatics Council (SAGC), and provides maintenance and support for specific requests and requirements.

Global Mapper is the preferred GIS software for SMC as well as many other organisations. The reasons are ease of use, affordability, excellent mapping tools, links to online data, many import and export formats, the availability of the LiDAR module, the release of Global Mapper Mobile and the excellent support from the Blue Marble staff.

Being a reseller of Global Mapper software enables SMC to establish strong relationships with clients, both locally and globally, and integrate the products, services and expertise of this excellent GIS software into our whole product and service offering.

How long has the company been in business?

SMC has been in business since 2002 starting with GIS consulting and focusing on mineral exploration. South Africa is a mineral rich environment, which provides many opportunities in this field.

What are your target markets?

We target many markets including:

  •         Agricultural Development (Land capability assessments and farm land use planning projects in South Africa and Nigeria)
  •         Environmental monitoring and evaluation including various environmental monitoring projects for the Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa
  •         Mining and exploration including diamond exploration
  •         Civil engineering projects
  •         Infrastructure development
  •         Academia including various projects with the North West University (NWU) and University of the Free State in South Africa
  •         And many more…

What geographic area do you cover?

See map below – Expanding our footprint into Africa has been an important objective, and it grows continuously. Providing complete product support and service to clients is key. Clients need training and we have found the webinars and online tools available from Blue Marble are excellent for this purpose. Usually our African clients also need public or customised training to complement this. Training therefore is a key component of our marketing strategy to expand the Global Mapper footprint in Africa.

SMC Synergy
This map of Africa shows SMC Synergy’s growing customer base.

How long have you been reselling Global Mapper?

SMC was officially appointed as reseller in 2013. Prior to that we were long-time users of Global Mapper and have been using and recommending the software since version 8.

Why were you originally interested in reselling Global Mapper?

The combination of functionality and price – the catch phrase then was “Your GIS Swiss Army Knife”, and it lived up to the promise. Being able to create print quality maps within a day of first contact with Global Mapper software speaks volumes of the intuitive and user friendly interface.

There are many other key features: 3D visualisation has been impressive and unique and the continued improvement and updating of this functionality ensures this remains a key product differentiator.

What is your favorite feature of Global Mapper?

It is impossible to choose, but we can highlight the 3D functionalities and analyses available, and most are nowadays available with one click icons.

The ability to easily access Web Map Services and datasets from many sources globally was a reason why we found Global Mapper an attractive option – and the options keep growing steadily for free or affordable data.

Then the LiDAR Module grew in stature and functionality; the recently added Pixel to Point option is, in our view, a game changer.

With the recently improved attribute search functionalities none of the alternative GIS platforms can compete at this price point.

Add to this Global Mapper Mobile available on both IOS and Android devices, and the Global Mapper platform provides a full suite of tools that fits the pocket of our target market segment.

By using the software in practice in our many projects, we have made many recommendations to the developers of Global Mapper and have been impressed with the responsiveness. Many of our proposals for improvement are now available in the software. Kudos to Blue Marble and the developers.

SMC Synergy
A Global Mapper training session lead by the team at SMC Synergy.

Other than reselling Blue Marble software, what other services do you provide? Training etc?

Our focus, in addition to Reselling Global Mapper, is GIS consulting. The Global Mapper software remains our primary communication and implementation tool.

Training is key for providing a complete product and service for our clients. We are able to support clients in French speaking countries, which helps to expand our footprint for the whole of Africa. Countries in West and North Africa are responding well to our ability to service them in their language of choice.

Our expertise extends to data and we know where Satellite imagery can be sourced, while considering its timeliness, availability and cost implications. We can therefore support clients to make decisions how and where to get affordable and fresh data for their applications.

With the advent and growth of available Drone imagery and LiDAR data, we are able to advise clients about these new technologies, both for visionary and creative applications as well as supporting mainstream clients.

How has your partnership with Blue Marble benefited your business?

Global Mapper is an important focal point of most of our business activities:

  •         It complements most of our projects.
  •         It links with our spatial database applications (Intermon – the NRM Intervention and Monitoring System) which makes use of cloud based database applications to support the Natural Resource Monitoring Program of the Department of Environmental Affairs. (http://www.intermon.co.za/ for more information).
  •         Capacity building and training of interns is a crucial activity. Exposing the next generation of GIS experts to Global Mapper is the most affordable GIS training option available. We also support post-graduate initiatives at the Northwest University and other academic institutions.

How do you see your business growing with Global Mapper? New markets?

Global Mapper, through our reselling efforts, must become the GIS software of choice in all African countries. We want to increase sales and support to all African countries with a 100% footprint on the continent. We aim to present training courses on Global Mapper in the major cities on the continent and to promote the visibility of this GIS software to all of Africa.

SMC Synergy
The team from SMC Synergy and Agence Congolaise des Grandes Travailles (ACGT) collecting data at a construction site for the Pixel to Point Tool in Global Mapper.

 

Where in the World May 2018 Answers

How Well Did You Do?

Name the capital city – Valletta

Valletta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the lake – Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the country – The Gambia

The Gambia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the mountain – Sugarloaf

Sugarloaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the river – The Congo

The Congo

 

Where in the World April 2018 Answers

How Well Did You Do?

Name the capital city – Panama City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the mountain – Etna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the country – Bolivia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the island – Ellis Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the cape – Cape of Good Hope or Cape Point

 

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.