“We can see an increase in the type and flexibility of new digital imaging and lidar systems”

May 2010 | No Comment

In the historical background section on the ISPRS site it says, “There is no clear-cut distinction between photogrammetry and remote sensing, and it is for this reason that the Society changed its name in 1980.” What then is the individual significance of ‘photogrammetry’ and ‘remote sensing’ for ISPRS?

Traditionally the term ‘photogrammetry’ has been used to describe the extraction of metric information from images, while ‘remote sensing’ has dealt more with the extraction of semantic information. However, the use of digital image processing to extract information from images has blurred the distinction between the two topics. Metric as well as semantic attributes are often equally important for information extraction from images, and therefore there is no longer a clear distinction between ‘photogrammetry’ and ‘remote sensing’. The ISPRS Council in 1980 in changing the name of the Society to include Remote Sensing decided to maintain the term photogrammetry in the title to respect the contributions of our forefathers in establishing and maintain such a strong Society originally based on photogrammetry over the past 100 years.

ISPRS will be celebrating its centenary this year, how has the role of the Society evolved over the years to keep in tune with the changing world scenario?

Technologies in photogrammetry and remote sensing have changed enormously over the past 100 years. They were originally based on hardcopy images and outputs, and processing methods, prior to the development of computers, were aimed at avoiding computations because of their complexity. Today’s images are digital and the processing is likewise digital. As well, multi-spectral digital imaging from aircraft and satellites are far more readily available than in the past. Management of spatial data has become inherently part of the processing of information derived by image processing. Hence ISPRS now has two Technical Commissions dealing with spatial information acquisition, processing and management. ISPRS today is also governed by Statutes and Bylaws that ensure that the Society is well managed and is very active in attracting many high quality scientists to work on the ISPRS Council and to manage its scientific activities. Therefore ISPRS today has developed from the strong foundation introduced by the early leaders based on photogrammetry, into a leading broadly based Society dealing with all aspects of ‘information from imagery’.

One of the objectives of the ISPRS is ‘development of international cooperation for the advancement of photogrammetry and remote sensing and their applications’. Could you highlight some of the efforts of ISPRS to fulfill this objective in the last one year?

ISPRS is a ‘Society of Societies’ with a mandate to include members from all regions around the world. The Society adheres to the Statutes and Bylaws of ISPRS which specify that the ‘Society pursues its aims without any discrimination on grounds of race, religion, nationality, or political philosophy’. Through the ISPRS Technical Commissions we aim to attract people from as many countries as possible to participate in their activities. The newly appointed Regional Representatives from Africa, Latin America and Asia are a further demonstration of the Society’s commitment to include participants from parts of the world. Recent meetings with these representatives have proved to be very fruitful and have led to new collaborative initiatives for the regions. As well, the ISPRS Council has been very active in visiting as many national members, regional members and international organisations to encourage participation in ISPRS activities.

Spatial content from ‘remote’ sensors is not an end, but the start for many applications. Which applications do you think have had the most impact on our lives in the last five years?

Major applications of remote sensing have especially included managing and monitoring natural and man-made disasters. The ‘JBGIS Best Practises Booklet on Geo-information for Risk and Disaster Management’ to be launched at the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs (UN-OOSA) on 2 July 2010 during the ISPRS Centenary Celebrations will document a number of examples. There has been excellent cooperation between ISPRS and UN-SPIDER in applying remote sensing technologies for disaster monitoring, management of relief for victims and documenting the impacts of the disasters. In addition, ISPRS is a member organisation of the Group on Earth Observation (GEO), which is making significant advances in the development of the Global Earth Observation System “We can see an increase in the type and flexibility of new digital imaging and lidar systems” Says Orhan Altan, President, The International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) May 2010 | 11 of Systems (GEOSS). Achievements of GEOSS are many, but they include: the GEOSS data sharing principles; and the Geo Web portal and GEOSS clearinghouse for searching data, information and services registries containing information about GEOSS components.

With remotely sensed images and data becoming freely available on many portals on the internet, it is felt that this technology is no more the prerogative of only the professionals. Would you like to comment?

Images of the earth are becoming more available thanks to Google Earth, Bing Maps and similar companies, as well as the many images appearing in the media. However, the images should be used for more than just the so-called ‘jee whizz’ factor, ie for looking at the images. The use of the data for extraction information still requires understanding the technologies, the local conditions for ground truthing, as well as processes that can be undertaken by software. There are still many new processes that need to be developed to fully extract information contained in the images. This is where the professions are required to ensure that the data is used correctly and the full information that can be extracted from them is understood.

In the past few years, legal and privacy issues have increasingly been raised with reference to high resolution imagery. What are your views on this?

UN Charter approved by the Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space defined conditions under which one country can image another. However, Governments have made decisions to license the development of satellites for increasingly higher resolution image acquisition. This has caused concern by some countries about the data revealing confidential information, but I take the view that the more information available about the environment, the better we are able to understand it and seek methods towards sustainability. This will be an important issue for the future of the environment.

How do you see this whole gamut of ‘remote’ sensing technology and applications developing in the coming years? What do you think the scenario will be in 2020?

Looking into crystal balls is fraught with difficulties, not the least because one can be accountable for one’s predictions. However, in a general fashion, I think we can see an increase in the type and flexibility of new digital imaging and lidar systems; we are likely to see increasingly higher resolution space systems; there will be a continued introduction of automation for processing images, so that maps can be kept up-to-date more rapidly on a regular basis; there will be a greater availability and use of images and spatial information.

However, we are not likely to see a major leap forward in these developments. Looking back over the past 10 years, the improvements have been gradual and I think this will continue to occur over the next 10 years.

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