Spread over three days, the first EAASI Partner Summit in Brussels shed a bright light on the challenges and common goals of the European aerial surveying industry.
EAASI, pronounced ‘easy’, is the newly established European Association of Aerial Surveyor Industries. Among the thirty-plus EAASI members are well-known European companies like BlueSky, COWI, Eurosense, IMAO SAS and TerraTec, but also hardware vendors like Riegl and Vexcel Imaging. After its festive launch at Intergeo in Germany in September, the founding members kept the momentum and organized a user event in ‘EU capital’ Brussels. Consequently, with its first event, EAASI tried to clarify the scope and focus of the young organization for members and stakeholders. That’s why the founding members organized the EAASI Partner Summit around three current working groups. Next to that, there were guest speakers from MAPPS, CANSO, EuroGeographics, The European Commission, OGC and ISPRS. Together, they showed a good part of the ecosystem in which EAASI has its place.
As a professional body representing the industry, EAASI proved itself generous to the Partner Summit’s sponsors. Consequently, they all got their speaking slots and there was time for questions from the audience. Vexcel Imaging and Hexagon Geosystems explained their content program. Both vendors offer users of their hardware participation in large-scale data capture projects. CAE Aviation explained how they provide aerial surveyors with extra capacity. Riegl presented an informative session on laser beam safety.
The American national industry association in the surveying, spatial data and GIS field, MAPPS, stands closest to EAASI. Except that 37 years old MAPPS is an established force, with some truly remarkable milestones on its roster. In 2018 alone, President Trump signed several bills that were favorable to MAPPS members. The National Agricultural Imagery Program, Aviation Authorization, the Geospatial Data Act and Hydrographic Services Improvement Act are examples of this. There, MAPPS proved how to set ‘geospatial legislative priorities’. But, as past MAPPS President Brian Raber acknowledged, there have been ups and downs in terms of successes and failures over the years. Admittedly, they sustained their business. Raber spoke out his hope that the EAASI would build its legacy on future relationships and allies, not adversaries. With ‘focused goals and strategies, realistic expectations, creative problem solving and conflict resolution’.
Eduardo Garcia is Manager European Air Traffic Management Coordination and Safety with the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO). Garcia claimed that CANSO members represent ‘almost 90 per cent of world air traffic’. “Aerial survey operations have an impact on ATC capacity”, Garcia said. “This is a big issue, especially in densely populated areas and around airports”. While Garcia showed a good understanding of what’s expected from flight operators, he seemed to miss out on the other side of the coin. Which is the importance of photogrammetry and scan data for society. Thus, one potential area of collaboration with EAASI could be to educate all involved in the special status of professional data capture flights. “To encourage a change in mindset about the way we use our airspace”, as Garcia put it, might be a great way to accomplish a better understanding for the need of aerial imagery.
Collaborating with mapping agencies and science
Both spokespersons of EuroGeographics and ISPRS emphasized the importance of collaborating internationally. Mick Cory, Secretary General of EuroGeographics noted that while “photogrammetry remains a key data acquisition science and technology for national mapping and cadastral agencies”, “things are changing”. Cory mentioned technological developments in the world of drones, where higher densities, resolutions and frequencies can be achieved. “Equally, street-scanners, pseudo-satellites or IoT can be of value, ensuring that it’s cheap to integrate with data from other sensors”. He concluded: “All these changes underline the importance of co-operation and collaboration. With each other and externally.”
Nicolas Paparoditis of IPRS showed a keen interest in constructing stronger links between the science world and the aerial industry. He came up with a proposal to have EAASI involved in ISPRS working group Commission 1. Additionally, EAASI could provide benchmarks to Commissions II, III and IV and organize challenges for students.
EAASI Working Groups
During the EAASI Partner Summit, three Working Groups organized their first sessions. Working Group 1 deals with European Projects. There are two main targets of this group. Firstly, a meeting with EuroGeographics concerning a consistent 3D scan model of Europe. Secondly, to do research on European projects akin to Horizon2020.
Air-traffic control (ATC) is the main focus of Working Group 2. This group wishes to establish a positive and sustainable relationship with ATC organizations through an information campaign on all relevant levels. Among the actions is an analysis of current procedures and the preparation of standards for flight application and coordination. Working Group 3 will deal with education, standards and certification, mostly on defining and enhancing tender specifications.
Outside the bubble
As the program of this event shows, the EAASI made a strong effort to look outside of the ‘bubble’ of photogrammetrists and aerial mappers. Within the newly set-up Working Groups, however, the focus still seems to be a bit inwards looking. It’s still early days, though. Certainly, useful informal contacts to overcome this have been established with interested outsiders like OGC, EuroGeographics and especially CANSO. The first EAASI Partner Summit was a success, the organizers can look forward to their next milestone. This might very well take place in Brussels, or maybe one of the members or stakeholders will be hosting the next meeting.