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What really happened at the largest geomatics event in Canada this decade?

Quebec City recently hosted a significant international symposium which highlighted Canadian and world capabilities in remote sensing. Of late, the collection, processing and application of complex remote sensing imagery is becoming more conventional and accepted as an essential component for many GIS applications. For example, ArcGIS Online uses numerous remote sensing imagery sources to create orthorectified imagery basemaps at the necessary map scales. While the applications of remote sensing technologies are growing in number and scope, it is scientific symposia such as this Quebec City event which provide a clearer picture of where this important technology is going and what areas still need additional research.

Energy and Our Changing Planet was the focus of attention at a recently completed symposium in Quebec City. The joint 2014 International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS) and the 35th Canadian Symposium on Remote Sensing (CSRS) were attended by nearly 2,000 people from numerous countries from around the world. Congratulations to the organizing committees for hosting and managing such a large event in Canada, including selecting presentations from nearly 2,500 abstract submissions. On most days there were 12 concurrent sessions along with well attended plenary sessions.

The welcoming speakers included Dr. Monique Bernier, Symposium Chair; General Walter Natynczyk, President of the Canadian Space Agency; Dr. Brian Grey, Assistant Deputy Minister at Natural Resources Canada; Dr. Anne Smith, on behalf of the Canadian Remote Sensing Society; plus other dignitaries affiliated with the joint symposia. The keynote presentations focused on applications of remote sensing in energy production, hydrography, renewable energy and electrical networks.

In the technical program, there was a lot of focus on various uses of the data received from the existing Radarsat 2 mission. There was also attention paid to the forthcoming Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM) that's currently under development. There was much excitement about the uses of airborne and satellite collected radar data for a host of applications including energy, urban, agriculture, resources and water. In addition, many optical and hyperspectral data application and technology presentations were given.

While the majority of the presentations were on raster image processing, most often the end results of the particular analysis or processing were loaded into a GIS for further analysis or storage. While the technology for the vectorization and subsequent importation of raster processing results into a GIS has improved over the years, there's still work to do. Raster to vector conversion is still not a foolproof process and several sessions outlined some of the issues with remote sensing and GIS data integration. Several presentations included the use of the ArcGIS Image Extension for Server product for image processing and management.

As the data quality, spatial resolution and frequency of coverage improves with new remote sensing platforms, the resulting imagery is finding its way into more and more operational GIS systems as an image backdrop. Also, certain results of remotely sensed data processing are being included in GIS systems, such as cloud coverage, flood extents, biomass estimation and iceberg locations. The Esri Canada Community Map has various scales of imagery basemaps that were created from satellite and aircraft data.

While the size of the global earth observation community is still relatively small compared to many other disciplines, this group plays an important role in monitoring and managing the health of our planet. The IGARSS/CSRS event in Quebec City helped to ensure that all the researchers and practitioners are aware of current technological capabilities and constraints. Congratulations once again to all those involved with the organization of this significant Canadian event and for making sure that this joint scientific symposium was both interesting and informative.

About the Author

Gordon Plunkett is the Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) Director at Esri Canada. He has more than 30 years of experience in GIS and Remote Sensing in both the public and private sectors. He currently sits as a member of the Community Map of Canada Steering Committee, GeoAlliance Canada Interim Board of Directors, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Technical Committee, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Committee on Geomatics, the University of Laval Convergence Network Advisory Committee and the Advisory Board to the Carleton University Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre. During his career, Gordon has worked on projects in more than 20 countries and has contributed to numerous scientific conferences and publications. At Esri Canada, he is responsible for developing and supporting the company’s SDI vision, initiatives and outreach, including producing content for the SDI blog.

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