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The Innovation Promises of Digital Mapping
When Elrey Borge "Jepp" Jeppesen began mapping terrain hazards, runway layouts and route landmarks as one of the pioneer barnstorming pilots of the 1920s and '30s, he stored his notes in his own personal navigation device - a little black notebook.
He might not have envisioned a day when aeronautical charts would be available at the click of a button, updated instantly with the help of global positioning systems and wireless communications and accessed on pop-up cockpit displays.
But then, few people thought airplanes would ever fly.
years restricted by limited computer data storage and poor graphic
display, mapping has been transformed recently by innovations in
digital imagery and platforms.
In today's digital world, geospatial mapping can be combined with social media to help first responders in a natural disaster find the people and places in the greatest need, guide urban and rural planners in designing the best expansion of new utility services, or offer historians new insights into yesteryear's world-changing events.
uses for digital mapping seem to be reaching into all kinds of corners.
Consider these ideas being bandied about just in the last few months:
- In March, TechNewsWorld highlighted efforts by Google to develop self-driving, autonomous cars. The project includes creating digital maps of roads to include features like lane markers and traffic signs, which would then be used in concert with cameras, laser sensors and radars to guide the vehicle through traffic.
- Last week (April 19), GeoEye Inc. announced it was partnering with Geostellar on a project with a goal to chart every commercial and residential property in the United States that has the rooftop potential to produce solar energy.
- In early April, Trimble, a California-based GPS and mapping firm, announced it was buying a Belgian unmanned aerial vehicle manufacturer to help with its topographical surveying work. The company cited the ability of the UAVs to work at a lower altitude and with quicker response to time-sensitive projects.
- Researchers in the United Kingdom recently discussed the need to begin mapping possible skyways as the possibility of personal air and land vehicles gains not only in popularity but also in technological reality. NASA years ago suggested that the so-called flying car could be the solution to interstate congestion, and even sponsored a contest soliciting design ideas.
pilots of full-size aircraft are still putting together
wish-lists of tomorrow just as pilots in Jepp Jeppesen's day coveted the information in his
little black book.
among them is a way to integrate all the apps and platform gadgets for
routes, flight plans, weather and the like -- as AVweb blogger Paul
Bertorelli recently put it, an "all-in-one appliance." Cockpits are only so big, after all.
- AJ Plunkett is a veteran reporter and editor based in Virginia with more than 27 years of experience. As a reporter, she's gone from covering the oil industry and Navy in South Texas, to military and defense industries of Hampton Roads, to the budget battles fought in the halls of the Pentagon and Congress. She has followed stories to Saudi Arabia and Somalia, as well as across the United States.
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