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El mundo al instante

Descubren la atmósfera de una 'supertierra' y un posible gemelo de Venus fuera del Sistema Solar

El principal objetivo de los científicos dedicados a buscar planetas fuera del Sistema Solar (denominados planetas extrasolares o exoplanetas) es encontrar mundos como la Tierra. Los avances se suceden poco a poco. Esta semana, por ejemplo, se ha anunciado la detección de la atmósfera de GJ 1132b, un planeta rocoso un poco más grande que la Tierra situado a 39 años luz de distancia y cuyo hallazgo fue anunciado a finales de 2015. Se trata de una de las primeras detecciones de atmósfera en un planeta relativamente parecido al nuestro.

Cuando fue descubierta esta supertierra, los científicos sospecharon que podría tener atmósfera aunque hasta ahora no lo habían podido confirmar. Según explican en la revista The Astronomical Journal, determinar si los exoplanetas tienen atmósfera o no es un paso importante a la hora de encontrar mundos potencialmente habitables, aunque es improbable que la haya en GJ 1132b porque la temperaturas en su superficie es muy alta (más de 300ºC) y además, recibe 19 veces más radiación de su estrella que la Tierra del Sol.

Las observaciones realizadas con el telescopio chileno de 2,2 metros del Observatorio Europeo Austral (ESO) sugieren que la atmósfera de GJ 1132b está compuesta por vapor de agua o metano, o bien una mezcla de ambos.

Este mundo, que tiene un radio de 1,4 veces el de la Tierra, se encuentra en la constelación de Vela y orbita la estrella GJ 1132, una enana roja o de tipo M, el tipo de astro más común en la Vía Láctea. Son frías y pequeñas y, debido a la débil luz que emiten, no son fáciles de observar. Hace aproximadamente un año, otro equipo descubrió una atmósfera en el planeta 55 Cancri e, una supertierra con una masa ocho veces la de nuestro planeta, equivalente a la de Neptuno. Situado a 41 años luz, en la constelación de Cáncer, se le conoce como el planeta diamante, pues en su composición habría abundante carbono en esa forma.

Sin embargo, también resulta muy interesante para los astrofísicos encontrar planetas parecidos a otros miembros del Sistema Solar. Un equipo de científicos del SETI (el Instituto para la búsqueda de vida extraterrestre) acaba de anunciar el hallazgo de un planeta que podría ser un gemelo de Venus. Está situado a 219 años luz y ha sido descubierto con el telescopio espacial Kepler. Sus características se publican esta semana, también en la revista Astronomical Journal.

Este planeta, bautizado como Kepler-1649b, es un poco más grande que la Tierra y orbita una estrella débil, denominada Kepler-1649, que tiene un diámetro equivalente a una quinta parte del que tiene el Sol. Su órbita alrededor de este astro sólo dura nueve días (frente a los 365 días que tarda la Tierra en dar una vuelta al Sol). Esta órbita tan pequeña hace que el flujo de luz proveniente de su estrella que llega a la superficie de ese planeta sea 2,3 veces mayor que la que llega a la Tierra procedente del Sol.

La estrella Kepler-1649 también es una enana roja. Según explica Isabel Angelo, coautora de la investigación, el estudio de planetas como el análogo de Venus Kepler-1649b se está convirtiendo en un campo cada vez más importante para los científicos, pues permiten entender los límites de las zonas habitables de las abundantes estrellas de tipo M o enanas rojas. "Hay diversos factores que hacen que estos planetas sean diferentes de los mundos que tienen el tamaño de la Tierra y orbitan estrellas como el Sol", señala la investigadora del SETI.

Aunque se dice que Venus es el planeta hermano de la Tierra porque tiene un tamaño similar y sólo está un 40% más cerca del Sol, también tiene notables diferencias. Su atmósfera y la temperatura que hay en su superficie son muy diferentes.

"Hay mucha gente obsesionada con encontrar otras Tierras. Pero los análogos de Venus también son importantes", afirma Elisa Quintana, otra de las investigadoras del SETI que ha participado en este trabajo.

http://www.ELMUNDO.es
Martes 11 de Abril del 2017

Google Streetview Pioneer Luc Vincent Joins Spotscale

3D technology company Spotscale has announced that Luc Vincent, one of the world’s top thought leaders in the mapping space joins Spotscale to assist in strategy and further development of relationships in the Bay Area.

Luc Vincent spent 12 years at Google, establishing and overseeing many of Googles largest 3D mapping initiatives, including Google Street View and Aerial 3D maps. In the end of 2016 he joined Spotscale as an angel investor and advisor. Currently, he is employed by Lyft in San Francisco as vice president of engineering.

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Vincent will bring a huge portion of domain expertise to further strengthen our strategic position in the mapping space, said Ludvig Emgård, founder & CEO. He is well positioned in the Bay Area, and has very much to bring on strategic partnerships, as well as Spotscale’s future product roadmaps. It is a clear signal that the technical capabilities of Spotscale are on par with the giants in the field.

About Spotscale

Spotscale is a 3D technology company that offers products and services for real estate developers, city planners and resort owners who need extremely precise digital and physical models of buildings and surroundings. Spotscale’s proprietary capture and processing solution delivers photo-realistic images that can be viewed and manipulated close up and from any vantage point on a tablet or computer, or used with full colour 3D printers to create miniature physical scale models.


http://www.GIM-INTERNATIONAL.com
Miércoles 05 de Abril del 2017

UAS Applications Are Ubiquitous

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Unmanned aerial systems (UASs) include imaging systems and/or airborne Lidar systems on an ever-increasing number of variously sized, remotely piloted fixed-wing or multi-propeller systems – the latter being able to hover and take-off vertically – as well as hybrid systems. In GIM International and other surveying and mapping literature, there have been many articles describing the use of UASs, new developments and precautions that need to be taken to achieve satisfactory results.

(By John Trinder and Yincai Zhou, The University of New South Wales, Australia)

In many countries, small UAS operations must satisfy specific regulatory conditions. These limit the airspace for UASs to below 400 feet (approximately 120 metres) and only allow them to operate while the UAS is within the operator’s visual line of sight (VLOS). The operator typically must also have the appropriate UAS certificate to apply for operations above 400ft or beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). The limitation of the maximum flying height to 400ft above the take-off location restricts the ground sampling distance (GSD) of images for geomatics applications to approximately 5cm. This is an advantage for many applications, however, since the purpose of many UAS flights is to monitor objects, vegetation and other features at close range.

Due to limited battery capacity, the area that can be covered in a single flight is typically of the order of 1 square kilometre. For larger areas UAS use may be uneconomic for surveying and mapping tasks in comparison to manned aerial photography. Research has shown that adding a solar capability to the UAS can increase flight time significantly, to up to four hours for a single flight.

Applications

UAS technologies have not been specifically designed for the geomatics fields, leading to many new civilian and commercial applications of UASs. Some typical applications described in the literature are: storm/hurricane monitoring; parcel delivery; emergency services; wildfire monitoring; wildlife protection; a range of agriculture tasks; asset and infrastructure inspections, especially in remote areas; security; exploration; environmental assessment; mass media; real estate; transport and traffic monitoring; international peacekeeping and monitoring vulnerable populations for human rights abuses; the visual arts; and many more. Some researchers claim that up to 30,000 civilian and commercial UASs could be flying in the skies over US cities within the next decade.

Many UAS applications described above are limited by the current civil aviation conditions. It could be argued that, without sophisticated collision avoidance, UAS development is still at a primitive stage. Research is being undertaken into collision avoidance systems. This should improve the applications of UASs and could allow them to fly within civilian airspace as well as avoid collisions with objects outside of civilian airspace, particularly when multiple UASs are being used. Furthermore, NASA in the USA is researching prototype technologies for a UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system, which includes airspace design, dynamic definition of boundaries for safe operations of UASs, congestion management and terrain avoidance that could lead to integration of airspace requirements for safe, efficient, low-altitude operations.

How much does positional accuracy matter?

In many applications of UASs, the most important information is the spectral characteristics of the terrain cover derived by multispectral or thermal cameras. In this case, since the exterior orientation parameters derived from the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receivers and the inertial measurement unit (IMU) are usually inadequate to determine reliable positioning, commercial bundle solutions using ground control points or transformations based on auto-tie points are required.

High positional accuracy for mapping applications is a product of the entire UAS system including the sensors, e.g. spectral cameras and airborne Lidar, exterior orientation parameters derived from the GNSS receivers and the IMU, operations and software, flight planning especially in difficult terrain or dense vegetation cover, as well as accurately surveyed ground control points. The cameras are usually calibrated by in-flight procedures based on an adequate number of auto-tie points or ground control points. If the images are acquired with overlaps of typically 80% along the flight direction and at least 70% between flights, the accuracy of densified point clouds derived from UAS images will be of the order of 1 to 1.5 GSD in position and 1.5 to 2 GSD for heights measured as a root mean square error (RMSE). Rich ground surface texture enables more auto-tie points and hence a higher-accuracy point cloud. Lower accuracies are likely to be achieved if the overlaps are reduced.

UAS Lidar

UAS Lidar mapping is available in the geospatial market but it is not as mature as UAS photogrammetry due to the high price tag for high-accuracy, low-weight Lidar scanners, as well as the need for a precise GNSS/IMU. UASLlidar mapping does not require large overlapped scans, and a single flight can cover a much larger area than UAS photogrammetry. However, the flight time is usually much shorter due to the heavy payload (typically 2kg) compared with a compact camera (typically 200g). UAS Lidar mapping usually uses onboard RTK GNSS for heading and IMU for pitch and roll. Heading accuracy still needs to be improved to achieve comparable point cloud accuracy at the same flight height as UAS photography.

Thanks to the availability of software for processing UAS images, it is possible for individuals without any knowledge of photogrammetric processes such as bundle adjustment to acquire and process UAS images without appreciating the capabilities of the software and/or their shortcomings. These can include aspects of flight planning, flight speed, imaging angle, imaging time of the day and control point distribution in the surveyed area. Image quality is also a factor to consider for mapping accuracy. Geospatial professionals have the know-how to achieve the proposed accuracy by considering flight parameters, camera set-up, image quality, terrain surface and control point distribution, coordinate systems, software processing set-up and parameter configurations. Therefore, it is strongly advisable to engage a qualified professional for the acquisition and processing of the UAS images.


http://www.GIM-INTERNATIONAL.com
Miércoles 05 de Abril del 2017

High-end UAVs: A Key Link in the Value Chain -

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or ‘drones’) have become an essential tool for land surveyors. The geospatial industry is turning to drones to map the environment, which is also impacting the commercial UAV business. Delair-Tech is a prominent company in the industry and attracted particular attention when it acquired Gatewingfrom Trimble in 2016. GIM Internationalinterviewed Michael de Lagarde, CEO of the France-based company, to ask him about the company’s strategy, outlook on the UAV market, cameras, fields of application and much more.

You recently announced that 2016 was a record year for Delair-Tech. Does that mean that the professional UAV industry is booming?

Over the past six years the commercial UAV technology has evolved quickly, preceded by the developments in recreational drones on the consumer market. Commercial machines have now reached the appropriate standards in ergonomics, safety and data quality. The legislation has followed the technological progress. Europe, and especially France, has been a pioneer, joined in 2016 by the USA with the release of Part 107: a set of rules that lays the foundations for the commercial use of drones. Every country in the world is following this path. 2017 will be the year of market adoption. Many industries have tested the tailored solutions that were designed specifically for their fields of activity, and have discovered that they add significant value. They are now convinced and ready to deploy on a large scale.

You have defined three strategic priorities for 2017. Can you tell us more about them?

Certainly. The first of the strategic priorities is structuring the commercial offer around verticals to continuously improve the value proposition to the final customer. In each of these sectors – power & utilities, geospatial, mines & quarries, oil & gas, railways & roads, emergency, security & defence, and agriculture & forestry – Delair-Tech proposes a specific solution, so that the drone-based tool chains are integrated seamlessly into the current processes of industrial users, with the highest possible added value.

The second priority is to continue the R&D effort. The objective is to capitalise on Delair-Tech’s field experience and create second-generation drones and associated data-processing software – more efficient and best adapted to the specific needs of large industrial groups.

The third priority is international business developmentOur company will continue to expand and strengthen its global network for the distribution of hardware and software. We will also focus on developing our service offerings worldwide, responding to the demand of industrial customers who wish to benefit from this technology without bringing drone operations in-house. Delair-Tech offers its customers experienced specialists to provide them with turnkey deployment solutions, while ensuring the safety of the operations and the quality of the results.

There are many developers of professional UAVs. What makes Delair-Tech’s UAVs different from other manufacturers’ UAVs?

Delair-Tech provides end-to-end drone solutions including hardware, software and services. Through a single interface, our industrial customers get the best fit-for-purpose drone solution to help them make informed decisions and boost their productivity thanks to aerial data turned into actionable business intelligence. On the hardware side, Delair-Tech’s drones are long range. They are the only ones in the world certified for operations beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) and equipped with professional-grade payloads, from photogrammetric cameras to Lidar. The range of available products is one of the widest on the market and meets the majority of industrial customers’ needs. On the software side, our cloud platform is simple and efficient. We have experience with paying customers since 2012. This is mainly due to French aerial regulations which have authorised professional UAV activities since 2012, whereas the legislation has been very restrictive in other countries. Therefore, Delair-Tech masters the entire drone technology value chain, from hardware to application-specific data processing. The results are highly integrated products delivering high added-value data. This advantage has been a key differentiator in the extremely competitive drone market and has enabled Delair-Tech to become a ‘one-stop shop’ for drones for commercial use.

With new companies emerging all the time, the UAV market still appears to be soaring. Do you agree?

Six years ago, the UAV landscape was mostly populated with small groups of hobbyists or academics, each developing their own prototypes. Requiring only a limited initial investment, small UAVs were generating much enthusiasm and hence rapidly gained in popularity. However, while it is certainly an achievement to get a demo version to fly once, developing machines that can be produced on a large scale and flown for hundreds of hours requires tremendous effort, time and investment. In the face of this tough reality, the UAV manufacturing population has drastically shrunk since then. Today, platform manufacturers have become scarce, on both the recreational and the professional markets.

The recreational UAV market is now saturated, with few prospects. The race is over and clear leaders have emerged. The market is dominated by mass producers that are engaged in a price war, while the bubble is progressively deflating…so the focus is now shifting from leisure drones to commercial drones. B2B customers require credible partners, capable of delivering effective solutions in a reasonable time – hence the trend towards industrialisation and consolidation, while the smallest business or academic actors are progressively disappearing. There is currently a lot of hype about the data processing software part which appears to be carrying a large part of the added value along the chain, but the end customers are focused on finding efficient end-to-end solutions and the software is only one part of that.

UAVs are often equipped with cameras that don’t match the quality of stable metric cameras. Which developments can we expect in this area?

Consumer cameras are inexpensive and yield data with a quality that is fit for an entry-level UAV. Of course, a number of basic tasks can be achieved using consumer-grade UAVs. However, in all data processing workflows, the quality of the input is crucial to the quality of the results – hence the importance of the hardware that captures the raw data. At the end of the day, people want the best possible result for their business analysis. The best way to achieve that is to consider the data processing chain as a whole, and to optimise each link. The first link is the hardware, and optimising this often results in using a high-end UAV rather than an entry-level one. High-end UAV cameras need to be adapted to a demanding set of constraints: high dynamics, vibration, changing lighting conditions, and to produce photogrammetry-grade data with high resolution and reduced blur and distortion. Sensitivity of the sensor, aperture time, resolution, optics…everything is optimised to produce the level of quality required for a specific application. Sensors are integrated into the on-board system and can be controlled from the ground by expert operators, and the data quality can be checked in real time throughout the entire acquisition process. The capacity of a UAV company to design its own photogrammetry sensors results in a product with a high level of integration, facilitating workflows for optimised data quality.

The founders of Delair-Tech

Capturing imagery is one thing, but after that it’s all about processing and visualisation. How do those aspects work when using Delair-Tech UAVs?

All professional drone solutions are composed of two inseparable steps. The first is data acquisition: UAV operators deploy a mission-suitable UAV within the zone of interest by. At this stage, special attention needs to be paid to safety, compliance with aviation rules and data quality. The output is a huge volume of unsorted raw data, i.e. big data, which is worthless unless it is processed in order to extract the valuable information. The second step is data processing using a software suite – a cloud-based platform with a simple and easy-to-use interface. The data is uploaded and goes through a number of processing steps, including quality control, photogrammetry and business analysis. The output is data analytics – in this case a report containing the business-specific intelligence needed for the end user to act upon. Using an integrated drone solution, including both the hardware and software, simplifies the overall workflow and provides the best user experience.

You also offer a Lidar-equipped UAV. What are your expectations of UAVs carrying a Lidar sensor?

The expectation of many UAV-based activities is to reduce the operating costs of aerial data acquisition compared to the traditional methods, like planes or helicopters. With our Lidar product, we intend to combine the efficiency and the data quality of a VUX1 RIEGL Lidar with the ease of deployment of a UAV. DT26X-LiDAR is particularly adapted for power line inspections or land surveying in large areas with dense vegetation. Typical accuracy (1 sigma) is less than 4cm along the XY axis and less than 2cm along the Z axis, which opens up a large field of applications.

You acquired Trimble’s UAV business and signed a strategic alliance with Trimble at the same time. Can you tell us more about that relationship?

In November 2016, Delair-Tech purchased Gatewing, Trimble’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) business. Established in 2008, Gatewing has been active in the commercial UAV market for a long time and the company has pioneered UAV-based photogrammetry solutions. Through this acquisition, Delair-Tech intends to reach the critical size required to best serve the needs of large industrial groups in a market that is currently undergoing intense consolidation. Both companies have merged their teams and are creating synergy between their technologies, facilities and know-how, thus significantly increasing capacity for innovation and production. With a total workforce of 110 employees, the newly created group is one of the main players in the global professional drone market.

Alongside that acquisition, Delair-Tech and Microdrones have signed strategic commercial agreements with Trimble. Delair-Tech has teamed up with Microdrones, a long-established supplier of multirotor systems, to offer a comprehensive range of products. They jointly became official suppliers for Trimble’s worldwide distribution network (150 dealers in 80 countries), which sells UAS and image-processing systems to the construction, agriculture, transport, geomatics and energy sectors.

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You’re also targeting the precision agriculture market. What are your thoughts on agriculture and UAVs?

We are targeting the digital agriculture market, which put briefly means getting precise and real-time crop insights so that the inputs can be aligned with the need of the plants in the field. Precision agriculture is still in its infancy, but the digital agriculture revolution is underway and UAVs are part of it. There was a lot of buzz around UAVs and agriculture, but sound and useful solutions are now emerging from the hype – ones that are really industrialised, that bring clear value and that fit in with daily agricultural or horticultural operations. For example, UAV solutions give seed breeders a tool that screens and describes the crop characteristics of entire research fields in a single flight – faster, with more precision and at a lower cost than conventional methods.

Which other fields of application does Delair-Tech consider to be very promising?

In addition to geospatial and agriculture, which are currently the most mature markets, we’re also focusing on several other verticals that we consider very promising in the short term: power & utilities, oil & gas and surveillance. For the first two, the main applications consist of bringing innovative tools and solutions to enhance the recurring maintenance of infrastructure, i.e. the customers’ major and strategic assets. In these markets, the drone is used as a substitute for traditional inspection and data collection methods such as on foot or by helicopter. The long endurance and BVLOS capabilities of the UAV, plus activity-specific software modules, are Delair-Tech’s strong suit here. We offer mature products that have been tested, compared and proven to be more efficient than conventional methods over large distances (often several thousands of kilometres).

In the surveillance market, areas are patrolled to spot intrusions or malicious acts, so this differs from the other value propositions – survey, monitor & inspect – associated with maintenance tasks. Real-time surveillance requires a real-time video feed. At Delair-Tech, we have chosen to address a broad range of sectors instead of specialising in only one. Designing professional-level UAVs and data processing software requires massive investments. Addressing several markets at the same time, with technologies that have many commonalities, is a way to spread these investment costs over wider sources of revenue.

Which changes do you foresee in the coming years regarding the role of UAVs in the geospatial industry?

As the regulations and the technology evolve, the UAV will become a standard tool for the professional surveyor. Until now the market has been drawn to entry-level products, which is understandable at adoption time. But users are increasingly realising the limitations of these products and are migrating towards ROI-driven usage. For professional use, it is not just the UAV but the whole solution that matters. It is now acknowledged that UAVs are only a part of the entire value chain; higher-end products will be chosen if they increase the efficiency of the overall solution.

The need for ‘drones as a service’ is also developing in many industries. Infrastructure managers realise the potential of drone-based solutions in their daily work, but don’t want to bring the activity in-house as it is not their core business. All this is a gradual and inevitable rationalisation and a normalisation of the use of these new tools that are progressively changing the way we work and helping us to move into the digital age.

About Michael de Lagarde
Frenchman Michael de Lagarde obtained an MSc in physics from École Polytechnique, Paris, in 2004. He started his career in the oil industry with Schlumberger as a wireline field engineer. As head of an intervention team, he managed the deployment of high-tech measurement tools during onshore and offshore drilling operations. Having first been based in Red Deer, Canada, he later moved to Yopal, Colombia. He subsequently became a petroleum engineer at Perenco, as offshore operations manager, in Egypt for the start-up of a gas production plant. When that project finished, he moved back to Paris and became part of the petroleum engineering flying team in charge of production optimisation at group level, with various spot assignations (mostly in East Africa). In 2010, he laid the foundations for Delair-Tech and developed the first UAV prototype. A year later he was joined by his three co-founders and they formally founded the company in Toulouse in March 2011.

www.delair-tech.com


http://www.GIM-INTERNATIONAL.com
Miércoles 05 de Abril del 2017

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