CPD, Satellites and Seas - 01/11/2017

As the end of the year approaches RICS CPD returns are required but there is no shortage of new developments to keep abreast of.

At this time of year I get several reminders about the completion of my Continuing Professional Development (CPD). I urge all who are members of a professional organisation that includes some formal continued development to ensure it is up to date and compliant. Indeed simply keeping up with the new aspects and developments in technology and business can be a challenge. I was fortunate to be able to attend this year’s Intergeo international trade event.


Once there used to be a significant amount of attention applied to the launches of satellites and for the surveying and positioning community it was GPS and then Glonass launches (and some failures). Nowadays we hardly notice the growing constellation of PNT (Position Navigation and Time) satellites. This September saw the latest Glonass units launched to create a 24 satellite constellation. With over 30 GPS satellites we have plenty of availability unless you’re in restricted urban areas, at which point many of the other 24 Glonass and 40+ satellites become useful too. Europe’s Galileo, for all its delays and increased expenditure, plans to add another four vehicles on 12 December to bring it to 19 operational satellites. Of course the over-reliance on satellite technology has been noted as a potential weak link in some sectors, including the military, maritime and aviation industries. The redundancy offered by multiple satellite constellations reduces this risk but incidents such as the reported spoofing of GPS signals in the Black Sea this summer and the more extensive jamming of signals on South Korean ships and fishing vessels, causing them to return to port early, indicate a level of vulnerability that may need to be further mitigated.

I’m an optimist and it is my belief that the interference of such ubiquitous systems as GNSS can only be a temporary or localised affair. Where better to be an optimist than the recent Intergeo 2017 event in Berlin. It was buzzing both in terms of the atmosphere but also due to all the remotely operated unmanned aerial systems. There was much evidence of developing technologies around remote sensing, visualisation and augmented reality. Moving forward with BIM, Smart Cities and immersive viewers the Geospatial industry can benefit from these potentially disruptive technologies rather than feel threatened in the age of the Internet of Things, AI and robotic or autonomous machines. The emergence of these new technologies and applications associated with them will drive many of our future projects. Mapping could become a real-time augmented experience with technology enabling attributed visuals processed on the fly and adapting to the interests and needs of the operators. Pure fantasy? Never in our lifetime? Possibly, but the Apple smartphone is only 10 years old.


In the hydrographic world, the technology advances are also very exciting as robotics, autonomous vehicles and the development of ever more beneficial sensors continues. The Shell sponsored Xprize for Oceans (http://oceandiscovery.xprize.org) has reached its semi final stage with 21 teams who will shortly be reduced to 6 or 7 for the final tests and a possible portion of the $7million reward. Connecting ocean exploration to the scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, media, public and coastal communities also represents a considerable challenge. Connecting things, be they underwater, or in the smart city environments, will be part of progress for our profession.

The introduction of new technologies and the financial support being made available across the globe to better map and understand our oceans and planet offer the young professionals a great opportunity to really make a difference. It could also count towards your CPD.

This article was published in Geomatics World November/December 2017

Last updated: 18/09/2020