Some Bright Spots

Here at the magazine, we've gotten a heavy dose of aerial mapping and photogrammetry lately. Our Aerial Mapping 2008 supplement came out in February, and now the April issue focuses on the subject.

The upside of this, the fun part, is seeing the many ways and places in which aerial mapping is being applied to surveying projects. One of our features this month tells how a Swiss company used an integrated enterprise production environment to process the data from a lidar mapping project in Poland. Another one details how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used aerial mapping in a project to restore a former Army airfield near San Francisco; they used it to develop a project basemap and digital terrain model. In the supplement, we wrote about the increased use of airborne GPS in aerial mapping projects.

We have also seen how aerial mapping firms have been impacted by the recent downturn in the U.S. economy. Some have curtailed their marketing efforts and laid off staff. We have heard about this in other sectors of surveying as well, particularly in those that involve land development and housing projects. Although financial analysts spin it many different ways, we are indeed experiencing some form of recession. To address this in the surveying realm, our Business Angle column this month gives tips and strategies on how survey firms can survive slow times and make downtime productive.

As I write this, a few of us magazine staffers are on the surveying conference tour, stopping at the ACSM conference in Spokane, Washington; GITA's show in Seattle; and then ConExpo in Las Vegas (look for reports in future Conference Recaps). Like the PGA tour and major league baseball, the survey show season has cranked back up again after the off-season. With economic conditions and their effects on survey firms on our minds, we try to get a pulse on how companies are holding up as we attend the shows.

The feedback we are getting is surprisingly upbeat. Many surveying equipment manufacturing and software companies report they are actually flying high. In truth, this isn't that surprising or indicative of the survey industry as a whole because many of the major vendors are multinational and diversified among many productive lines (i.e. total stations, laser scanners, GPS receivers, etc.). But a couple of large U.S. surveying and engineering firms report that though they may have had to lay off some surveyors, they're still maintaining a sizable backlog of work.

While this may be a case of them staying busy working through a backlog and not bringing in much new work, we can hope their optimism permeates the surveying profession. Later this year, we plan to present articles detailing companies who prosper during this downturn. If you've found a way, let us know your story.

About the Author

  • Tom Gibson, PE
    Tom Gibson, PE
    Tom was editor of the magazine from June 2006 to May 2010. He is also the editor of Progressive Engineer: www.progressiveengineer.com

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