Home Articles ‘Leica and Z/I Imaging are complementary rather than competitive’

‘Leica and Z/I Imaging are complementary rather than competitive’

After Hexagon’s acquisition of Intergraph in late 2010, Z/I Imaging and Leica Geosystems’ Airborne Sensors Business Unit joined forces. In 2011, both management teams combined 80 years of photogrammetric history, which ties back to the wellknown brands of Zeiss and Wild Heerbrugg who started these businesses in the early twentieth century. Today, both companies profit from the strengths of the other.

Juergen Dold, President, Hexagon Geosystems
Juergen Dold
Hexagon Geosystems
Jack Ickes, Hexagon Geosystems
Jack Ickes
President, Geospatial Solutions Division
Hexagon Geosystems

Post the Intergraph acquisition, how is Hexagon- Geospatial Solutions Division building synergies between Leica Geosystems and Z/I Imaging in terms of technology and business reach of independent companies?
Dold: After Hexagon’s acquisition of Intergraph in late 2010, Z/I Imaging and Leica Geosystems’ Airborne Sensors Business Unit joined forces. In 2011, both management teams combined 80 years of photogrammetric history, which ties back to the wellknown brands of Zeiss and Wild Heerbrugg who started these businesses in the early twentieth century. Today, both companies profit from the strengths of the other. Together, under the umbrella of Hexagon’s Geospatial Solutions Division, we have a global presence. We are also the only company with the complete portfolio of airborne sensors that includes medium and large format imaging sensors, large format push-broom imaging sensors, low and high altitude LiDAR sensors, premium stabilising sensor platforms and a complete workflow, which covers the process from mission planning and flight control to innovative postprocessing and image generation. With an increasing focus on software development, we are also now in a position to offer vertical workflow solutions such as fully automated rapid orthophoto production, point cloud generation from imagery and specialised remote sensing applications.

How are you dealing with similar/competing products in the product portfolios of both the companies?
Dold: I think looking at the obvious one, the imaging sensors, we can confirm today that our respective technologies are complementary rather than competing. Even if one looks only at the frame cameras, the Leica RCD30 and the Z/I DMC serve very different markets and applications. The synergies of both companies’ product portfolios lie in mission planning, flight management, stabilising platforms and workflow software. Naturally, we have been spending a significant amount of time examining existing solutions and combining the best of both worlds into innovative products that serve our combined customer base. The recently launched Leica MissionPro is proof that this can be done successfully. This new multisensor software enables both Z/I Imaging and Leica Geosystems customers to conduct mission planning and expands on the existing offering by including a 3D Globe View as well as business analysis tools to increase and measure productivity. From a marketing perspective, we, of course, have to adhere to both Leica Geosystems and Z/I Imaging product brand guidelines, which is why we may, at times, launch a product under the Leica brand even though it will serve both our Leica Geosystems and Z/I Imaging customer bases. However, our product strategy, which we have communicated across our markets, will not change. Whilst we will work towards exploiting synergies in and around aircraft installation and workflows, we remain committed to our main product lines and will further develop and innovate our medium and large format frame imaging sensors (RCD and DMC), our large format pushbroom imaging sensor (ADS) and our LiDAR (ALS) solutions. In addition, we continue to see an increasing demand to integrate third party sensors with our superior peripheral products and workflows.

How is Hexagon Geosystems leveraging on the products and strengths of other divisions of the company including Hexagon Metrology and Hexagon Technology to build more comprehensive and value added products and solutions?
Dold: Hexagon Geosystems collaborates with all other Hexagon divisions. For instance, with Hexagon Metrology, we share technology across our high-precision total stations and laser tracker product lines. With NovAtel, part of the Hexagon Technology division, we collaborate on GNSS technology and innovative processing algorithms for both terrestrial and airborne applications. With Intergraph Process, Power & Marine (PP&M), also part of Hexagon Technology, we contribute our scanning technology and total stations for as-built and maintenance surveys in the process plant industry.

Ickes: In the past, Leica Geosystems’ airborne sensors worked closely with ERDAS, and Z/I Imaging worked closely with Intergraph. Under the new structure within Hexagon, these collaborations have not only continued, but intensified. The new Geospatial Solutions Division works with the Intergraph Security, Government & Infrastructure (SG&I) and Geospatial teams on a number of combined workflow initiatives such as photogrammetric production and mapping workflows. One specific example of this is the innovative DSM extraction capability inside Leica XPro, which is based on the SGM algorithm, currently exclusive to Leica ADS customers. This will be available to all of our frame customers inside Intergraph ImageStation in Q3 of 2012.

What can we expect in the LiDAR segment?
Ickes: Our latest release, the Leica ALS70, has been very well received in the market, particularly due to its innovative beamsplitter technology. Whilst we, of course, continue to develop innovative LiDAR technologies for the future, our current focus is on adding to the post-processing workflow solutions.

What are the new and emerging application areas Hexagon Geospatial Solutions Division is looking at?
Ickes: Over the past several years, the application has increasingly informed the technical design of our products. Visualising, mapping and updating our world digitally is a key driver for innovation in the geospatial community today. Whilst digital airborne camera technologies are now fully accepted around the world, it is the combination with innovative processing concepts, algorithms and computing technologies that enables rapid automated orthophoto production and increased data throughput. In the past, the production of highly accurate orthophotos for 2000 km2 took weeks. Today, it can be done in a matter of hours. Creating surface models from imagery is not a novel idea, but with new approaches such as SGM technology, we can create these attributed point clouds, or infoclouds, as we call them, more effectively. This produces 3D dimension in very high resolution with spectral information, in a very short timeframe. Similar drivers will also be important when looking at oblique workflows, UAV technologies and when creating intelligent information from these infoclouds, which will require intelligent segmentation and automated feature extraction.

What are the regions/countries of interest for Hexagon Geospatial Solutions?
Dold: With well over 100 employees, Hexagon Geospatial Solutions has a presence around the world and a leadership role in many of the established markets. Naturally, whilst emerging markets already represent more than 30 per cent of our geospatial business, there are increased opportunities to provide complete mapping solutions from our sensor portfolio in those countries.

The combined strengths of Leica Geosystems and Z/I Imaging under the new banner of Hexagon Geospatial Solutions Division accounts to about 90% of all airborne cameras ever built, according to an estimate. This brings with it a huge responsibility as well – in terms of consolidating on the position and technology development to build solutions that the world would require tomorrow. What is your strategy in this direction?
Dold: Well, Z/I Imaging, with its roots in Zeiss, and Leica Geosystems, with its roots in Wild Heerbrugg, have demonstrated an impressive and successful journey in photogrammetry over the past 80 years. Today, under the Hexagon umbrella, they are the clear market leader in the industry. The Geospatial Solutions team, under the leadership of Jack Ickes, is well aware of the responsibility we have not only to our longstanding and loyal customer base, but also to our new customers. I think that whilst past achievements are comforting and, no doubt, signify a certain degree of expertise, they are no guarantee for future success. It is this understanding that motivates our team to continue to focus on our strengths and to drive innovations for our customers. We are determined to continue offering best-in-class sensors, a seamless workflow and outstanding support in our mission to innovate the geospatial industry.


  1. Hello, We are a client using the Erdas Imagine photgrammetry Suite. My real problem is with our ZI image Photoscan. It seems we have no contact information and our scanner requires a repair. My impression is the photoscanner has been orphaned and no longer has any support. Is this true? Can anyone help me with contacting a vendor who can service the instument?