Commercial UAV Operators Double

Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 07:59:16

An interesting summary piece over at Amateur Photographer…. and particularly noting that

“The number of CAA-approved commercial operators now stands as 862, compared to 549 in April and a reported 359 in October 2014.”

Of course from this headline figure its hard to gauge the volume increase of flights (and their distance/duration), although I guess that could be the subject of an FoI request, however the increase in operators does show the burgeoning of a new market. At some point in the next few years we’ll see this mature as survey requirements are operationalised and the size of operators increase with companies merging.

Perhaps of more interest will be the consumer market…. this is where there will be a significant increase in flights and probably the highest safety risk as well. This is what will drive both innovation and legislation. Its worth noting (from the article)

“According to Forbes business magazine, the world’s largest consumer drone maker, DJI, is now worth $10 billion.” Now thats food for thought…

The ArcGIS Book

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 08:18:08

Esri have just published a free online and PDF book called The ArcGIS Book. In Esri style, it is beautifully produced and presented with an eye for layout, typography and map design. Esri have always been strong supporters of publication and education, although Id probably say its more aligned to edutising - part education, part advertising. If you live inside the Esri garden they are very good accompanying products - this one, subtitled “10 big ideas about applying geography to your world” is largely an educational user guide to ArcGIS Online. It does this very well covering an intro, catography, story maps, data, spatial analysis, 3D, apps, mobile, real-time and back to web GIS. There are explanations, interviews, online videos and practical lessons to support all this. If you are an Esri convert its an excellent guide sitting between a textbook and an online course (and Esri have form here as well), designed to support those either in education or those wanting to be self-taught.

Of course it won’t give you anything outside the Esri world and that’s where you’ll miss out on wider spatial and non-spatial developments. But as a resource, use it as its very good.

Lies, damned lies….

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 17:09:12

and marketing!!

I was asked to fill in a customer satisfaction survey today using a fairly normal 1-10 symmetrical likert scale. Except that below the scale values 1-6 were noted as “negative”, 7-8 as “neutral” and 9-10 as “positive”. This psychological bias means that if you are satisfied you should be scoring 9-10…. this will naturally inflate any averaged values which can then be validly used in any marketing.

Clearly even big companies like Aviva aren’t too worried about pushing the boundaries of acceptable.

Note to self… Nikon Custom Banks

Monday, August 24, 2015 at 08:21:42

My Nikon D700 has what are called “Custom Banks” - on face value these look like ways of saving your settings (for example if you have a preferred setup for a type of shooting) which you can then use later. Indeed you can use them this way, except the way they are set up is somewhat counter intuitive (as Ken Rockwell explains)…. whenever you change a setting it is automatically stored in the current bank, there is no save option. So by all means use bank “B” for a studio portrait range of settings but dont change anything otherwise they are automatically stored! Given you can’t lock your settings, you’ll probably end up needing to check them which kind of negates the point of using a custom bank in the first place!

Firefox Resume Download

Friday, August 21, 2015 at 07:12:52

Firefox has a very effective resume download facility which is useful with big downloads (particularly as Im on 2Mb broadband) - however it consistently failed me when downloading the Windows 10 install ISO last week. I tried downloading it 3 times and on each occasion it failed at around 3Gb which was very frustrating. When I reinitiated the download it started from the beginning….

After the 3rd fail I looked in to whether you can force Firefox to resume a download and indeed you can!! A partial download will have the filename followed by the .part suffix. Move this to a new location then start a new download - this will create a new .part file in your download folder. At this point pause the download, delete the new .part file and replace it with the old .part file, then resume the download in Firefox. It will correctly resume.

Big time saver!


Thursday, August 20, 2015 at 10:44:18

With the press reporting on UAV near misses in the UK there is increasing pressure on how to effectively deal with drones encroaching on airspace and a rational approach to safety. Clearly you DON’T want drones anywhere near commercial aircraft or over sensitive areas (e.g. nuclear power plants). That said - what exactly is a drone and at the very small end of the spectrum do you want to be criminalising children. Hoisting cameras on to drones (for example the very popular DJI Phantom series) adds an extra layer of complexity to negotiating the ramifications of low altitude, high resolution, cameras within personal spaces. From the perspective of an Earth scientist, these are wonderful ways of obtaining high resolution data of of the Earth’s surface. And for professional use you clearly do want some kind of licensing (see EuroUSC) and code of conduct that includes liability insurance for when things go wrong. And that’s before you even think about using that part of the airspace for automated deliveries.

With all this mind what’s the way forward? There’s no easy answer to that one and education seems to be a starting point. So the Civil Aviation Authority, the pilots union BALPA and air traffic control company NATS have launched a campaign call Dronecode to make people aware of the main issues which can be summarised as:

-Make sure you can see your drone at all times and don’t fly higher than 400 feet
-Always keep your drone away from aircraft, helicopters, airports and airfields
-Use your common sense and fly safely; you could be prosecuted if you don’t.

Drones fitted with cameras must not be flown:
-within 50 metres of people, vehicles, buildings or structures
-over congested areas or large gatherings such as concerts and sports events

These are eminently sensible - and remember that if you are taking photos, like any kind of photography you need a signed release form to use photos of people and buildings commercially. It will be interesting to see how UAV regulations develop in different countries.

CLustre: source code released

Thursday, August 13, 2015 at 12:51:38

With the paper CLustre: semi-automated lineament clustering for palaeo-glacial reconstruction now accepted for publication, we have released the sourcecode for CLustre at Github.

When undertaking a palaeo ice sheet reconstruction using geomorphological evidence, it is standard to map the ridge crests (and often outlines) of glacial landforms and in particular drumlins. These form coherent “flow sets” that indicate discreet periods of ice flow and are manually grouped together based upon spatial homogeneity. My PhD thesis reviews this process: Chapter 2 - Overview Of Ice Sheet Reconstruction From Geomorphological Evidence.

CLustre undertakes an objective and repeatable approach to performing a classification and grouping of drumlins, using similar heuristics to manual mappers. The paper presents the algorithm, uses a Monte Carlo method to test it on a simulated dataset before applying it to two case studies. The code is based upon the open source Python and can be run directly from the command line or within a console…… a sample dataset from Stokes and Clark (2003) is also provided for testing (and should be cited if used).

Please feed back any comments!

CLustre: semi-automated lineament clustering for palaeo-glacial reconstruction

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 at 14:23:28

Smith, M.J., Anders, N. and Keesstra, S.D. (in press)
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms

Datasets containing large numbers (>10,000) of glacial lineaments are increasingly being mapped from remotely sensed data in order to develop a palaeo-glacial reconstruction or “inversion”. The palimpsest landscape presents a complex record of past ice flow and deconstructing this information into a logical history is an involved task. One stage in this process requires the identification of sets of genetically linked lineaments that can form the basis of a reconstruction.

This paper presents a semi-automated algorithm, CLustre, for lineament clustering that uses a locally adaptive, region growing, methodology. After outlining the algorithm, it is tested on synthetic datasets that simulate parallel and orthogonal cross-cutting lineaments, encompassing 1,500 separate classifications. Results show robust classification in most scenarios, although parallel overlap of lineaments can cause false positive classification unless there are differences in lineament length. Case studies for Dubawnt Lake and Victoria Island, Canada, are presented and compared to existing datasets. For Dubawnt Lake 9 out of 14 classifications directly match incorporating 89% of lineaments. For Victoria Island 57 out of 58 classifications directly match incorporating 95% of lineaments. Differences are related to small numbers of unclassified lineaments and parallel cross-cutting lineaments that are of a similar length.

CLustre enables the automated, repeatable, assignment of lineaments to flow sets using defined user criteria. This is important as qualitative visual interpretation may introduce bias, potentially weakening the testability of palaeo-glacial reconstructions. In addition, once classified, summary statistics of lineament clusters can be calculated and subsequently used during the reconstruction process.

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