Looking Forward: Up Above and Down Below

by Jeff Thoreson

TWO MAJOR ASPECTS OF THE FUTURE OF THE GEOSPATIAL INDUSTRY don’t have much to do with surveyor boots on the ground—or the ground at all. The next few years of progression in our fields will have a lot to do with what flies above and what lies beneath.

Unmanned aerial vehicles—a politically incorrect term still in use but being phased out in favor of “uncrewed aerial vehicles” or the gaining-popularity “remotely piloted aerial systems” (RPAS)—will change the way almost everyone in the industry works. Likewise, unmanned surface vehicles (USV ) are becoming uncrewed surface vehicles as we see more and more of them skimming across the ocean doing the vital work of mapping the ocean floor and collecting data that will help stabilize our planet for the future.

Our September issue takes a look at both of these aspects. While remotely piloted aerial systems are changing workflows for surveyors here in America (see Gavin Schrock’s article “UAS and ALTA Surveys” beginning on page 24), we have to look much further afield to get a glimpse of how aerial drones will eventually impact the entire world (see Juan Plaza’s cover story “The Wide World of Drone Upstarts,” beginning on page 11). Both are fascinating reads.

We are early into the Ocean Decade but much progress is being made, much of it by futuristic-looking uncrewed vessels that are monitoring the ocean, mapping the sea floor, and/or collecting comprehensive data that is crucial not only to helping the planet but also in national security. George Galdorisi, director of Strategic Assessments and Technical Futures for the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, takes a look at this topic in “Ocean Observation,” beginning on page 19.

And while we’re looking under the ocean, it is important to note that more than 23 percent of the ocean floor is now mapped (see “The Ocean Decade” beginning on page 22).

As always, enjoy the issue while we move on to preparing the next one for you.

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