Geospatial Round-up – Sept/Oct 2019

October 9th, 2019, Published in Articles: PositionIT

Next-gen GPS satellites launched

The US Air Force and its mission partners has launched the second Global Positioning Systems (GPS) III satellite during August 2019. The Lockheed Martin-built satellite is known as “Magellan”, in honor of Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese navigator. Magellan will join the current GPS constellation comprised of 31 operational spacecraft, and will be the 21st M-Code-capable satellite added to the fleet. GPS satellites operate in medium earth orbit at an altitude of approximately 20 200 km in six planes. Each satellite circles the Earth twice per day, providing high qaulity positioning, navigation and timing services for billions of users worldwide. GPS III, the newest generation of GPS satellites, brings new capabilities to users, including three times greater accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities.

China launches 46th BDS satellite

The 46th BDS satellite was successfully launched onboard a Long March 3B rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. As the 21st constellation satellite of and the second inclined Geo-stationary (IGSO) satellite added to the BDS-3 constellation, this satellite joins the 20 previously launched BDS-3 satellites, to provide timely services and further enhance the BDS coverage capacity and service performance. The BDS-3 satellite and the launch vehicle used in the mission are developed by China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) respectively, both of which are affiliates of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. This is the 307th flight of the Long March rocket family.

Mapping agency opens art gallery

Ordnance Survey’s (OS) experimental and custom cartography and geodata visualisations have been brought together in a free-to-access-online-virtual-art-gallery. The GeoDataViz (GDV) exhibition can be explored on laptops and PCs and presents visitors with a blend of OS’s art and science. From giant maps of Mars and the recent anniversary map of the Moon landing, each is done in OS’s iconic mapping style. The virtual gallery also contains other rooms that are currently closed off, but the plan is for these rooms host guest cartographic and data viz exhibitions. The exhibition has been organised by Cartographic Design Consultants Charley Glynn and Paul Naylor. The GDV gallery was built by the OS Labs team, combining cartographic design expertise with 3D development capabilities. It was built using the Unity game engine, with the 3D models and 2D assets created in Blender and GIMP respectively. To maximise accessibility, we chose to release the gallery as a browser based WebGL application.

First patent filed AI-created inventions

A multi-disciplinary international team led by Professor Ryan Abbott at the University of Surrey has successfully filed the first patent applications for two inventions created autonomously by artificial intelligence (AI) without a human inventor. The AI inventor, named “DABUS” by its creator Stephen Thaler, relies upon a system of many neural networks generating new ideas by altering their interconnections. A second system of neural networks detects critical consequences of these potential ideas and reinforces them based upon predicted novelty and salience. The AI has generated output that formed the basis for two patent applications. One application claims a new type of beverage container based on fractal geometry, while the other claims a device for attracting enhanced attention that may help with search and rescue operations.

New Zealand embarks on 3D country map

New Zealand invited 3D mapping companies to help transform how regional councils plan investments and prepare for climate change. Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) has issued a request for tender on the Government’s Electronic Tender Service for lidar services over approximately 100 000 km2 of New Zealand. The tender begins procurement for the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund lidar elevation data capture project which is providing up to $19-million in co-funding over five years to support regional councils to develop a national elevation dataset. Having highly accurate elevation data and 3D maps assists regions to make critical infrastructure investment decisions and is crucial for urban planning, construction and engineering. It also supports good planning and decision-making by industries looking to invest in the regions, particularly in the agriculture and forestry sectors.

Remote Arctic mapping

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), and Saildrone accomplished a key milestone in the research and testing of unmanned technology that can lead to enhanced seafloor mapping capabilities with the launch of the first Saildrone, a wind-driven and solar-powered unmanned surface vehicle (USV). It equipped with multibeam echo sounder technology in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA anticipates that this mission and technical achievement will lead to mapping projects in the Arctic. The USV was deployed into the Gulf at the end of June 2019 for its initial data collection mission and ran for eight days. After evaluating the data collected and making some software improvements, USM launched the vehicle again during July 2019. Autonomous solutions can be far more efficient than traditional methods of hydrographic surveys, and can access areas that are either too hazardous or too difficult for conventional vessels to get to, expanding the extent of survey coverage and enabling safer operations.

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