Talking tech – a geospatial journey from Land Rovers to drones and beyond

Talking Tech_526919722_LowResMy neighbours think I’m mad! The minor rewiring project on my beloved Series III Land Rover expanded recently and meant that, over the last few weeks, rain, shine and often by torchlight, I have been spotted kerbside clutching wires, switches, sockets and soldering iron.

I’ve had a few old cars over the years. None have been valuable or particularly collectable, just simple, honest old cars that you can get a spanner on. This is my second Land Rover affair and, as I was reminded at last year’s GEO Business event, they are a vehicle which many in the geospatial profession know very well indeed.

So from a big picture perspective, I have probably got better things to do. But life’s a journey. While I love the digital, iPhone dominated world of tech which dominates the geospatial sector, and find myself regularly immersed in BIM, remote sensing and digital asset management, there’s nothing like a bit of basic mechanics to refocus the mind.

Besides, the Land Rover was arguably one of the key tools in the development of modern geospatial engineering. As one of the first go-anywhere civilian vehicles, the Land Rover soon became a vital part of the land surveyor’s toolkit as we pushed out cross-country and across countries to construct a new, modern world of post-war infrastructure in the 1950s and 1960s.

The longevity of the utilitarian Series and Defender model – which in a blaze of publicity ceased production last year after some 67 years of life – meant that since then several generations of land surveyors – and the geospatial professionals that have followed in their footsteps – will have, at some point, been intimate with one of these bumpy, noisy, cold, draughty but fantastic workhorses.

Yet as we will see at this May’s GEO Business event in London, the world and the tools of the land surveyor have changed considerably over the last few decades. Much of it for the better. Forget the romantic notions of forging across wilderness in a truck armed with nothing but theodolite, pen and paper. The reality is that it was difficult, often dangerous work, carried out in the cold, damp and dark.

Today’s technology changes all that. Global positioning means that we know where we are all of the time, and with an extraordinary degree of accuracy. On the back of this advance and the digital technology that drives it, geospatial engineering has accelerated out of background to sit centre stage, and at the heart of future infrastructure development, operation and management.

Comprehensive digital modelling, remote drone operated real time surveying, laser scanning, photogrammetry, machine control, remote sensing, embedded smart technology, virtual and augmented reality – the list goes on. All this will be on display and under discussion at the GEO Business show as professionals gather to identify and drive the vast opportunities that sit ready for clients and asset owners to embrace.

It is technology that the next wave of UK and global infrastructure projects will all benefit from and be built around. The UK infrastructure delivery pipeline now sits at upwards of £500 billion; meanwhile President Donald Trump is expected to push forward with an initial programme worth $1 trillion. Around the world infrastructure investment remains key to economic growth and enhancing our increasingly urbanised lifestyles.

Just like the early land surveying pioneers, this opportunity will see geospatial engineers combine new skills with great entrepreneurial and creative thinking as they lead the new digitally enabled infrastructure future.

Certainly, the new technology on show at GEO Business will be key to this future. But I am sure that much of it will still be underpinned by, and maybe even operated from the back of, a trusty (and fortunately now slightly more reliable) Land Rover.


This article was written by independent editorial expert and journalist Antony Oliver, who regularly contributes industry content for GEObuzz. Find Antony on Twitter @_Antonyoliver_

GEO Business 2017, 23 – 24 May 2017, Business Design Centre, London UK

The geospatial event for everyone involved in the gathering, storing, processing and delivery of geospatial information. Incorporating an international trade exhibition, a cutting edge conference and a programme of live commercial workshops sessions, featuring the technology and services used by those working with spatial data.

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