Despite the current economic downturn in Europe, the second European LiDAR Mapping Forum (ELMF; Salzburg, Austria), held November 29–30, reflected much positivity from the lidar (light detection and ranging) industry. This year's event drew over 445 attendees from 40 different countries, with almost twice as many visitors from Eastern Europe as last year's event held in The Hague, Netherlands.
Conference chairman Alastair MacDonald of TMS International believes the conference represented a thriving community, with a high quality of papers available. The reaction to the topics from the delegates showed how important and relevant the chosen subjects were to the lidar community, he says.
The first day also included a newly introduced plenary panel debate session in which two key industry issues were debated, headed by a panel of industry experts. Each panel member gave opinions about whether or not open source lidar data is assisting or damaging the industry, as well as whether or not Point Cloud services benefit or complicate services for the lidar data user community. With the panel favoring availability of open-source lidar data and software, there was also strong agreement from the majority of delegates. The delegates acknowledged that while open-source does not necessarily mean 'free of charge or cost,' the wider availability of lidar software and processed data can only be good for the industry as it will widen the user community and lead to more lidar-related projects.
For the second issue about Point Cloud there was agreement that Point Cloud services would ease processing and storage of lidar data and images, but it would be necessary to develop some international operating and quality standards and be consistent in data formats. It was also felt that new users should be properly educated about the benefits and limitations of lidar data.
The conference confirmed dramatic technical advances over the past year. Of particular note was the paper by Dr. Laurent Smadja of Viametris (France), who described new techniques for automatic segmentation of lidar point clouds. Other papers demonstrated innovative new applications, including solar mapping for calculating the optimum locations for solar panels on buildings. Lidar for analyzing flood risk and forestation was also presented, as well as its use in mapping safe and fast routes to deliver aid to refugees. New software applications were presented in fascinating talks about 3D city modeling, mobile mapping in GPS-denied areas, lidar surveys around power lines, and even laser mapping of the world’s largest ice cave.
The new venue in Salzburg earned much positive feedback from visitors. ELMF director Versha Carter notes that Salzburg’s central location in Europe may have contributed to the increase in visitors from Eastern Europe, which is an important consideration for next year’s venue.
Running alongside the conference was an extensive exhibition, with over 59 exhibiting companies from 14 different countries. The number of exhibitors was up by over 15% compared to last year and included the industry’s latest technologies and services, as well as an outside area displaying mobile mapping vehicles and systems. There were also a series of lidar and associated systems workshop sessions available for delegates, which were well attended.
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