Geospatial Round-up – March 2018

March 12th, 2018, Published in Articles: PositionIT

Lidar enables discovery of Mayan ruins

The University of Houston’s National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping used lidar to reveal extensive Mayan ruins in Guatemala. The lidar technology was able to identify hundreds of previously unknown structures, including raised highways, and complex irrigation and terracing systems. After the collapse of the Mayan civilisation, their cities and monuments were quickly covered by thick rainforest, hiding the ancient civilisation from airborne observation and making it very difficult to survey on foot. Flying high above the rainforest, lidar gave archaeologists a “bare earth” view of the structures underneath. Having rapidly covered 2100 km2, the data revealed large amounts of ruins hidden below the forest, showing that their urban centres were significantly larger than archaeologists had previously thought.


Satellites and drones discover penguin colony

A recent scientific expedition to the Danger Islands, a remote group of tiny islands along the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, used satellite and drone technologies to discover and survey a breeding colony of more than 1,5-million penguins. Using multiple simultaneous counts on the ground, quadcopter-based aerial photography and high-resolution satellite imagery, they found that the islands have 751 527 pairs of Adélie penguins, more than the rest of the entire Antarctic Peninsula region combined. The study indicates that Danger Islands hold the largest population of Adélie penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula, and they also appear to have not suffered the population declines found along the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula that are associated with recent climate change.


High density navigation chart

The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office disclosed details of a new Electronic Navigational Chart (ENC) which could help to improve situational awareness and safety. Developed to cover an area of the Bristol Channel known as The Bridge, this high density ENC displays depth contours at 1 m intervals, allowing electronic chart display and information systems) ECDIS to set safety contours at corresponding levels to support navigation through shallow water. In addition to safety benefits, this could also bring a significant commercial benefit to cargo owners and ship and port operators, as ships can be more confident about the true depth of water under the keel – thereby increasing ships’ cargo-carrying capacity. ​


Self-driving car and passenger drone combo

Audi, Italdesign and Airbus’s Pop.Up Next concept is an entirely electric, fully automatic concept for horizontal and vertical mobility. In the distant future this vehicle could transport people in cities quickly and conveniently on the road and in the air. The interaction between humans and the machine is performed by speech and face recognition, eye-tracking and a touch function. The ultra-light, two-seater passenger cabin can be attached either to a car module or to a flight module. Audi is supporting the project with know-how on battery technology and automation, and Italdesign develops future-oriented vehicle concepts for the car manufacturer and customers around the globe. The concept first premiered at the Geneva Autosalon a year ago, with this new iteration being significantly lighter than its predecessor.


Urban heat islands layout dependent

The arrangement of a city’s streets and buildings is the most important determinant of a city’s heat island effect, which causes cities to be hotter than their surroundings, researchers at MIT and the National Center for Scientific Research have found. They adapted formulas initially devised to describe how individual atoms in a material are affected by forces from the other atoms, reducing these complex sets of relationships to simpler statistical descriptions of the relative distances of nearby buildings to each other. They then applied them to patterns of buildings determined from satellite images of 47 cities in the US and other countries, ending up with an index number for each to provide a statistical description of the cluster of nearest neighbours of any given building. Cities laid out on a precise grid had a far greater heat build-up compared to cities arranged more “chaotically”. The finding could provide new ways to influence those effects.


Land governance linked to investment programme

The African Land Policy Centre (ALPC) and the Government of Côte d’Ivoire held a workshop in February 2018 to validate the country report and business plan on Mainstreaming Land Governance in the National Agricultural Investment Plan of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme. The workshop was held in the context of a project being piloted in six selected countries (Cote d’Ivoire, the DRC, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania), that seeks solutions to land governance challenges that hamper progress of agricultural transformation. ALPC is implementing the project in line with its commitment towards facilitating the implementation of the AU Agenda on land. In Cote d’Ivoire, the pilot is being executed by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Rural Land Agency.