Geospatial Round-up – March/April 2019

April 11th, 2019, Published in Articles: PositionIT

Missing Argentinian submarine located

The wreckage of ARA San Juan, the Argentine Navy submarine which was lost on 15 November 2017 has been located in November 2018 after two months of seabed search by Ocean Infinity, the seabed exploration company. The submarine was found in a ravine in 920 m of water, approximately 600 km east of Comodoro Rivadavia in the Atlantic Ocean. The company used five autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to carry out the search, which was conducted by a team of approximately 60 crew members on board Seabed Constructor. The AUV’s can operate at depths from 5 to 6000 m and cover vast areas of the seabed at speed. The AUVs are not tethered to their host vessel during operations, allowing them to go deeper and collect higher quality data for the search. They are equipped with a variety of tools including side scan sonar, a multi-beam echo-sounder HD camera, and synthetic aperture sonar. In addition, the company is able to deploy two work class ROVs from the host vessel.

Countrywide lidar point cloud in the cloud

The USGS 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) has been acquiring 3D information across the US using lidar. The USGS has been focused on providing new mechanisms to access 3DEP data beyond simple downloads. With 3DEP’s adoption of cloud storage and computing, users now have the option to work with massive lidar point cloud datasets without having to download them to local machines. Recently, USGS began uploading 3DEP lidar point cloud data into an Amazon s3://usgs-lidar Requester Pays bucket. Currently there are over 1,77-million ASPRS LAS tiles compressed using the LASzip compression encoding in the us-west-2 region, which equates to over 12-trillion lidar point cloud records available from over 1254 projects across the US. This resource provides users a mechanism to retrieve and work with 3DEP data that is quicker than the free FTP download protocol.

Russia to develop six new navigation satellites

Russia will continue developing its Glonass orbital navigation system with the launch of six new satellites. The new satellites in other orbits will help solve the tasks of improving accessibility on the territory of Russia. The country is planning to launch six space vehicles that will improve the Glonass system. This will improve the accuracy, accessibility and integrity of the system. In 2011, Russia launched its first Glonass-K satellite, which has been undergoing flight trials since then, and in 2014 its analogue was launched. The Glonass-K2 satellites are expected to be ready starting in 2019. The current Glonass constellation comprises 24 satellites.

Australian state to mandate BIM

The Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning of the Queensland Government in Australia will be mandating building information models (BIM) on all new large government projects. As the construction sector transitions from paper-based plans to digital ones, the Digital Enablement for Queensland Infrastructure – Principles for BIM implementation will guide the Queensland Government’s consistent adoption of this new approach. This will provide certainty to industry for its future investment and training decisions. The principles and overarching workplan are required to establish a whole-of-government framework to meet the goal of implementing BIM on major government infrastructure projects by 2023. The rich information generated for each government project will improve the design, construction, management and operation of each asset. All major government construction projects with an estimated capital cost of $50-million or more, which commence a detailed business case from 1 July 2019, will be required to use Building Information Modelling in accordance with the principles.

OS makes map toolkit for developers

The UK’s Ordnance Survey Open Zoomstack contains up-to-date and authoritative OS data for every building, road and greenspace in Great Britain, and comes with four different cartographic styles – outdoor, roads, light and night – with further flexibility for greater customisation. The toolkit is a supported open data product. It is available in GeoPackage and as Vector Tiles (for both web and mobile). Its release comes after a three-month trial, which saw OS working closely with more than 1200 developers who helped shape the product ahead of its release. It is part of OS’s journey to improve access to its data, to reach new audiences and make its data easy for customers across all sectors to use. The learnings taken from this project are vital and will be incorporated into other projects as we move forward.

Building footprints for Canada

Statitics Canada (StatsCan) and Microsoft collaborated, leveraging AI, to developed a solution that will help all Canadians. Using’s StatsCan’s Open Database of Buildings which is generated from municipal open databases, along with satellite and aerial imagery, coupled with Bing Maps’ deep learning, computer vision and AI, Microsoft is strengthening Canada’s census with smart data and a better understanding of where people live. This is done by mapping the footprints of every building in the country. The collaboration has released more than 12-million building footprints in Canada to the OpenStreetMap community. Buildings indicate where the people are. Accounting for this has always been a great challenge for governments, as well as humanitarian efforts and philanthropic initiatives. As open data, the map of building footprints will be available to all Canadians looking to better understand their country.

Strategy to help industry use satellite data

Geoscience Australia and FrontierSI have engaged with more than 500 stakeholders on the development of its industry strategy for the Digital Earth Australia (DEA) programme. Understanding the needs of different industry sectors was key to unlocking the full economic and social potential of satellite data and imagery in Australia. The organisation wants industry to understand and use the DEA products and services, and to help drive the future of DEA investment. The new strategy will focus on data and technology, education and training, and awareness. As part of the new strategy, a small-scale, targeted incubator programme called “DEA Labs” has been developed to help Australian businesses use satellite data and DEA technologies to solve real-world problems. It is proposed to accelerate adoption of earth observation and DEA technologies by providing support and funding to develop services and solutions faced by Australian businesses collaboratively.

French military earth observation satellite launched

The first of the CSO (Composante spatiale optique) Earth observation satellites for the French Armed Forces has been launched from the Kourou European Spaceport in French Guyana. CSO will provide very high-resolution geo-information intelligence to the French Armed Forces and its partners Germany, Belgium and Sweden. The satellites are equipped with a very agile pointing system and are controlled via a secure ground control operations centre. Airbus has provided the agile platform and avionics, and was also responsible for the integration work, testing and delivery of the satellites to CNES. Thales Alenia Space provided Airbus with the very-high resolution optical instrument. Airbus teams will also continue leading the user ground segment operations. Airbus was awarded the CSO contract at the end of 2010, by CNES, the French space agency acting on behalf of DGA, the French Defence Procurement Agency. The contract included an option for a third satellite, which was activated after Germany joined the programme in 2015.

Harpoon successfully captures space debris

The RemoveDebris satellite, one of the world’s first attempts to address the build-up of dangerous space debris, has successfully used its on-board harpoon-capture system in orbit. The Airbus Stevenage designed harpoon featured a 1,5 m boom deployed from the main spacecraft with a piece of satellite panel on the end. The harpoon was fired at 20 m/s to penetrate the target and demonstrate the ability of a harpoon to capture debris. This marks the third successful experiment for the project. It previously used its on-board net to capture a simulated piece of debris, and then trialled its state-of-the-art lidar and camera-based vision navigation system to identify space junk. The team is now preparing for the final experiment, which will see the spacecraft inflate a sail that will drag the satellite into earth’s atmosphere where it will be destroyed.

Search for tools to capture 3D underground data

DARPA is seeking information on technologies and methodologies for advanced mapping and surveying in support of the agency’s Subterranean (SubT) Challenge. Georeferenced data could significantly improve the speed and accuracy of warfighters in time-sensitive active combat operations and disaster-related missions in the subterranean domain. Today, the majority of the underground environments are uncharted or inadequately mapped, including human-made tunnels, underground infrastructure, and natural cave networks. Through the Request for Information, DARPA is looking for technologies to collect highly accurate and reproducible ground-truth data for subterranean environments, which would potentially disrupt and leverage the subterranean domain without prohibitive cost and with less risk to human lives. These technologies will allow for exploring and exploiting these dark and dirty environments that are too dangerous to deploy humans.

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