Home Articles ISPRS… The journey continues

ISPRS… The journey continues

In 1910, the International Society for Photogrammetry (ISP) was founded under the leadership of its first President, Eduard Dolezal, from Austria. After 70 years of functioning under its original name, the Society changed its name in 1980 to the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS). It is an international non-governmental organization devoted to the development of international cooperation for the advancement of knowledge, research, development and education in Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, their integration and applications, to contribute to the well-being of humanity and sustainability of environment.

Except for interruptions during World Wars I and II, the Society has carried on its activities continuously since its founding. These activities culminate every four years in an International Congress on Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. The Congress includes presentation of scientific and technical papers, technical tours, scientific and commercial exhibits, meetings to conduct the business of the Society, and a social program.

Technical Commission VII (TC VII) ISPRS is organising an International Symposium on Resource and Environmental Monitoring during December 3-6, 2002, in Hyderabad, India. On the occasion we are publishing two interviews, one by Dr John Trinder, President ISPRS and and the other one by Dr R Navalgund, President, Commission VII.

Dr John C Trinder, President, ISPRS in an interview with [email protected]

“ISPRS is dedicated to contribute to the well-being of humanity and the sustainability of the environment”, says Dr John C Trinder, President, ISPRS in an interview with [email protected]

Please tell us how ISPRS came into being? When was it started and what was the vision behind it?

ISPRS commenced as the International Society of Photogrammetry (ISP) in Vienna, Austria in 1910. In those days it had only 3 members. The aims of the Society were to encourage cooperation between the members to develop the applications of photogrammetry, which were only in their infancy at that time, since aerial images were not commonly available. This vision then was similar as it is today. The Mission of ISPRS is: The International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (hereinafter referred to as the Society) is a non-governmental international organization, devoted to the development of international cooperation for the advancement of knowledge, research, development, education and training in the photogrammetry, remote sensing and spatial information sciences, their integration and applications, to contribute to the well-being of humanity and the sustainability of the environment.

Could you highlight some of the key contributors to the field of photogrammetry, in ISPRS since its inception?

The founder of ISP in 1910 was Eduard Dolezal. There have been many major contributors over the many years. The Presidents and the Honorary Members of ISP and ISPRS have been prominent individuals, most of them coming from Europe and North America.

Some prominent names in photogrammetry are:

  • Laussedat and A. Meydenbauer for close range and architectural photogrammetry
  • Scheimflug an early inventor of aerial photogrammetry
  • Koppe, W. Jordan and S. Finsterwalder for early applications of photogrammetry
  • Pulfrich and M. Gasser E. and von Orel for developments of photogrammetric instrumentation.
  • Von Gruber for development of orientation methods
  • Schermerhorn K. Rinner and D. Brown for development of theories of photogrammetry
  • U. Helava for development of the concept of analytical plotters
  • F. Ackermann for recent developments of aerial triangulation

What are the turning points in ISPRS history?

This question could be answered in several different ways: in terms of the management of ISPRS or the development of technologies in photogrammetry, remote sensing and spatial information sciences. A good paper on this topic was given by Professor Murai at the ISPRS Commission II Symposium in Xi’an in China. A copy will be available on ISPRS Web site shortly. It would be worth consulting that paper for more details.

As far as the administration of ISPRS is concerned, a major turning point occurred in 1948 when the details of six Technical Commissions were defined, while the seventh was added in 1952. These are the seven Technical Commissions that exist today.

A further major turning point was the change of name to include remote sensing in 1980. Although this change did not impact on the work it was undertaking, it recognised the areas that were being studied by ISPRS.

In terms of the technology developments, the turning points are defined in terms of technology three eras of development in photogrammetry:
1850-1950 – Analogue era
1950-1990 – Analytical era
1990-present – Digital era

Remote sensing and spatial information sciences have a much shorter history and hence their turning points are less well defined.

What is the organisational structure of ISPRS? How does it undertake its various activities?

ISPRS is a Society of societies. That is, its members are societies of the member countries. ISPRS has no individual members. Individuals belong to the society in their own country, and that society is the member of ISPRS.

The decision making body of ISPRS is the General Assembly. It is a democratic body, which meets at each quadrennial Congress where it makes decisions that guide the operations of ISPRS for the next 4 years.

The executive body of ISPRS is the Council comprising 6 members, which are appointed by the General Assembly. The Council implements the decisions of the General Assembly for the 4-year period between Congresses. All administrative activities of ISPRS between the Congresses are undertaken by the Council.

The scientific and technical activities are undertaken by the seven Technical Commissions, the Presidents of which are appointed by the General Assembly each 4 years, and come from a different country. The Technical Commission President are responsible for running their Commissions for the 4-year period, according to the terms of reference of the Commissions which are determined by the General Assembly. The areas of responsibility of the Commissions are then allocated to Working Groups, which are managed by Chairs and Co-Chairs. Each Working Group has assigned to it a set of terms of reference, which are planned by the Technical Commission President and approved by the Council.

How ISPRS generates funds for its various activities?

Funds come from 4 main sources: Member (Ordinary, Associate, Regional and Sustaining Members) subscriptions; interest on its investments; donations and gifts; and levies on ISPRS Congresses and Symposia (this last item was only introduced in 2000)

What are the achievements of ISPRS so far?

  • It has achieved an excellent reputation in the fields of the photogrammetry, remote sensing and spatial information sciences, particularly in photogrammetry. It also has made significant contributions in the applications of remote sensing and spatial information sciences. This is demonstrated by the quality of papers at the ISPRS meetings.
  • It has expanded its membership now to 103 Ordinary Members. Its overall membership would include people from more than 120 countries.
  • It has recently been admitted as a full member of the International Council for Science (ICSU), the apex scientific body for science. This is a recognition of its achievements.
  • Amongst peer organisations ISPRS is recognised for its scientific excellence.
  • The International Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing is ranked highly. The Newsletter published by ISPRS, named ‘ISPRS Highlights’, which was first published in 1997 is proving very successful. The number of hits on ISPRS Web Page demonstrates that it is serving a need.

Since ISPRS has a long history, how has it impacted GIS and related sciences?

The original purpose of studies undertaken by ISPRS (ISP) was to develop methods for the acquisition of data for mapping. The fields covered by ISPRS are now much broader, primarily because of the availability of space images and the vast amount of information that can be extracted from them. This expansion in activities commenced in 1972 with the launch of the first Landsat satellite.

The field of ‘spatial information sciences’ has only been in existence for less than 30 years. ISPRS has always considered that it plays an essential role in the spatial information sciences, since the processing, management and archival of spatial data, whether it is vector, raster or image data, cannot be divorced from its collection. The most significant impact that ISPRS has made in the field of spatial information sciences is the development of methods of acquiring the data from aerial or space images. However, it has become increasingly involved in other aspects of spatial information sciences, including processing, applications, management and archival of spatial information. Nowadays, a number of Working Groups in Commission II and Commission IV cover a number of aspects of spatial information sciences, including the theory of GIS.

What are the future plans of ISPRS?

The immediate plans of ISPRS Council is to implement the Strategic Plan that was approved by the General Assembly in Amsterdam in 2000. Many actions derived from this plan have already been implemented. It includes a review of the terms of reference of the Technical Commissions that have been in existence for more than 50 years. The purpose of this review will be to ensure that scientific directions of ISPRS are well structured for the future.

Council also wants to expand its cooperation with other international organisations with which it has synergies. The fields covered by ISPRS are becoming multi-disciplinary, and it is important that ISPRS is able to garner the expertise of other professions to assist it in its work. An example of this need is the use of applications of remote sensing for sustainable development. The recognition of ISPRS as a full member of ICSU is a good step in this direction.

What are some of the technological advancements that you see as having great potential for further development in the field of photogrammetry, remote sensing and spatial information sciences?

Developments in aerial and space imaging will have a major impact on the activities of ISPRS; aerial from the point of view of digital data acquisition of high resolution images; and space images from the point of view of a whole range of systems that will enable us to monitor the environment more effectively. The major issue for the future of our field will be acquiring a better understanding of the planet and the impact of humans on it, resulting in global warming, global change etc. That is, the tasks for ISPRS will be to pursue the mission of ISPRS‘ the sustainability of the planet’.

Developments in computing and communications technologies will continue to have a major impact on the activities of ISPRS enabling researchers to undertake much more detailed and intensively computational and analysis tasks on Earth observation data.

Dr R R Navalgund, President Commission VII, ISPRS: 2000-2004 in an interview with [email protected]

“India has user-oriented and applications-driven programmes in the field of Earth Observation”, emphasises Dr R R Navalgund, President Commission VII, ISPRS: 2000-2004

What are the main activities of Commission VII, ISPRS?

The ISPRS Technical Commission VII is engaged in the scientific and technical work related to remote sensing, GIS and GPS applications for the management of natural resources and monitoring of environment. It works under the general direction of the Council. It organises Working Groups to carry out activities related to spectral, spatial and temporal radiation properties of objects, development of interpretation and analytical techniques, environmental studies, integration of remotely-sensed and other collateral data for process modelling, monitoring of resources and conservation of environment, impact of climate change and disaster management. It also organises a mid-term symposium on these aspects and helps in preparation of the Congress at the conclusion of four year term. It also interacts with other Commissions of ISPRS through Inter-Commission Working Groups to promote areas of common interest.

Please tell us about the Working Groups of Commission VII?

Based on the resolutions passed by the Amsterdam Congress during July, 2000, ISPRS TC VII activities have been organised into six Working Groups (WG), on

  • Fundamental physics and modelling
  • Sustainable agriculture and eco-system approach
  • Integrated monitoring systems for resources management
  • Human settlements and impact analysis
  • Disaster monitoring, mitigation and damage assessment
  • Monitoring and modelling global change

What key activities have been undertaken during your tenure in this Commission?

We have stressed on studies related to physical measurements and spectral signatures in remote sensing, sustainability indicators as applied to agricultural systems and precision farming, integrated coastal zone management, monitoring of world heritage sites, urban planning, geo-hazards and disaster management and modelling of global environmental change. International Workshops and Symposia have been organised by the WGs on spectral signatures, hyperspectral remote sensing, urban studies and disaster management. WG Chairs participated in the deliberations of Integrated Global Observation Strategy, CEOS etc. We are organising an international Symposium during December, 2002 to review the work in this broad area.

What relevant activities of ISPRS have been initiated in the Indian context?

India has been in the fore front of evolving a nationally important and globally relevant Earth Observation programme comprising design and development of spacecrafts, state-of-the-art sensors, acquisition and data processing systems and down-to-earth applications programme. Activities identified under Commission VII are entirely in synergy with India’s programmes. The mid term symposium will provide a platform to bring these studies to the attention of the scientists of other countries. Indian scientists will be presenting more than 300 papers during the Symposium on these aspects. Indian Society of Remote Sensing, ISRO, and many other agencies, government departments, NGOs and industries have been providing very valuable support for carrying out these activities in India.

Where do you see India in the larger gamut of technological advancements in this field?

India is one of the very few countries in the world to have user-oriented, applications-driven and continuing programme in the field of Earth Observation. Till recently, data of 6m resolution provided by IRS-1C/1D were the highest resolution data in the civilian domain. More importantly, spacecraft missions/sensors are defined according to user needs and in consultation with them to ensure utilisation of data in national development. Definition of Resourcesat (IRS-P6) carrying a set of three sensors, namely AWiFS, LISS-3 and LISS-4 on a single platform is unique and should provide greater impetus for the utilisation of RS data in many areas of natural resources

What future plans you have as President, Commission VII, ISPRS?

Major plan would be to consolidate gains of the Symposium and plan for the ISPRS Congress 2004, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey. To promote interaction among various scientists, users, technologists through workshops in 2003, is a major activity. Workshops on Global Change and Sustainable Agriculture are in the offing. We also intend to promote documentation of successful case studies of RS&GIS applications for the benefit of others.

Activities of ISPRS
  • Facilitate excellence in research and development and the proper use of appropriate technology in the photogrammetry, remote sensing and spatial information sciences, as well as the development of standards;
  • Initiate and coordinate research in the fields of the photogrammetry, remote sensing and spatial information sciences by creating Technical Commissions and Working Groups concerned with pertinent aspects of the photogrammetry, RS and spatial information sciences;
  • Convene international Congresses, symposia and other meetings, with lectures, communications, discussions, and as appropriate, tutorials, exhibitions, technical visits, and social events;
  • Ensure wide international circulation of the results of research and the records of discussion by the publication of The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, which shall form the record of Congresses and Symposia, and other scientific meetings of the Society;
  • Publish and circulate an international journal, a bulletin, and other communications relevant to the interest of the Society and the community at large;
  • Stimulate the formation of national and regional Societies of the photogrammetry, RS and spatial information sciences and promote exchanges between such Societies;
  • Encourage interaction of the Society and its members with the community at large, including the publication and exchange of scientific papers and journals by, and among, its national and regional Societies;
  • Encourage recognition and administer awards to honor the achievements of individuals or groups.
  • Represent the photogrammetry, remote sensing and spatial information sciences in relevant international forums;
  • Promote and facilitate education, training, and technology transfer of the photogrammetry, remote sensing and spatial information sciences;
  • Promote other appropriate actions to enhance the Society’s mission.
Commissions of ISPRS
Commission 1 Sensors, platforms and imagery
Commission II Systems for data processing, analysis and representation
Commission III Theory and algorithms
Commission IV Spatial information systems and digital mapping
Commission V Close-range vision techniques
Commission VI Education and communications
Commission VII Resource and environmental monitoring