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Interview: John Witherden - 50 years in survey business

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In November, Aworth Survey Consultants announced that the company had reached a significant milestone - 50 years of business in the survey industry. The occasion has been honoured with a surprise presentation by Tim Badley, Leica Geosystems' UK direct sales manager, of a specially engraved Wild /Leica Zenith & Nadir optical plummet, circa 1963. This was presented to Aworth's managing director, John Witherden, who joined the company as a trainee in the 1970s.

To mark the event, Location-Source's Hayley Tear talks to John about the company's history and the state of the survey industry:

Image of John WitherdenYou joined Aworth Survey Consultants in 1975 as a trainee, straight from school. Was there something that particularly drew you to the industry? Or do you feel lucky to have discovered a career you feel passionate about quite by chance?
I started to think seriously about a career in Land Surveying when I was studying for my A Levels. It seemed to combine all the things I was interested in and passionate about. A job that required me to work outside, with technical equipment and with opportunities to work in different places was extremely appealing. I was lucky enough to find an opening at Aworth for a trainee surveyor at a time when the digital age and the associated advances in technology that it ushered in were around the corner. As a result the company was able to significantly increase its client base and the range of services it could offer and I never looked back.

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Aerial Imagery from Unmanned Aircraft – a new dawn for photogrammetry?

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Aerial photography taken from unmanned aircraft is the technology of the moment, with many equipment and software developers and service companies getting in on the act. Richard Groom reviews the state of the technology, provides some advice for clients and sets out the regulator's rules.

Image: senseFly's autonomous UAV, eBee.

Up until 2000, to map an area of more than about 50 Ha the technology of choice was photogrammetry. Overlapping vertical aerial photography was taken using specially adapted light aircraft with heavy, expensive, calibrated metric cameras. This enabled photogrammetrists to build virtual 3D models. Surveyors would survey on the ground the coordinates and heights of points visible on the models, so that they could be rotated and scaled to the national coordinate reference system. The advent of precise GPS (and latterly multi-constellation GNSS) and inertial motion sensors meant that less ground control was needed and digital photography enabled automated model generation with pixel matching software; but the technique has remained fundamentally unchanged.

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Interview: Charles Kennelly - A fortune-teller for GIS?

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GIS Professional's editor, Robin Waters, spoke with Charles Kennelly, Esri UK’s chief technology officer since 2008, after the company's annual conference in May. He is committed to 'reducing barriers' to the use of geospatial information:

Charles KennellyCharles has worked in the GIS industry for 20 years, starting life as a digitiser and working through the various aspects of the industry. Initially in local government and latterly with Esri UK, Charles has been involved in the design, development, deployment and management of a number of successful GI systems. Now working as the CTO for Esri UK, Charles specialises in finding ways of making GIS accessible to ordinary users in wide-ranging environments, from consumer mapping to enterprise and business critical systems.

This is the first Esri UK conference that I have attended and you seem to be able to attract many users despite the age of austerity?

We are delighted that there have been nearly 50% more delegates than last year and we actually ran out of GIS Professional copies that you had provided! We were taken by surprise at how many people have just turned up on the day. It looks as if they have found the meeting useful and interesting judging by the attendance at the plenary and breakout sessions and certainly all our partners with stands in the refreshment area are doing a lot of business.

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Interview: Software support - manning the front line

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Carl Hancock talks to Aligned Assets' new testing and support manager, Melvin Lindsay, who explains what goes on behind the scenes in software maintenance, development, testing and de-bugging:



Melvin LindsayMelvin Lindsay holds a degree in business information technology and has previous experience as an IT analyst and IT project manager. He took over the role of support and testing manager in March 2013 with the brief of streamlining Aligned Assets' support processes.

Aligned Assets are an industry leader in AddressBase, gazetteer and address management solutions. The company supplies software to both public and private sectors including over 100 local authorities, fire and rescue services and police forces. As well as the software and data solutions, it offers a complete range of consulting, training, development and project management services.


Firstly, congratulations on your new role, how are you finding it so far?
It's been an 'enjoyable challenge' I'd say. Just prior to me taking up the role, Aligned Assets had one of their support technicians move on to pastures new, so although I'd not expected to be hands-on straight away, my background as a 1st line support engineer proved very useful.

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What is the economic impact of Geo Services?

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This question, posed in a short report by economics consultancy Oxera in January, should be of great interest to all those involved with geographic information and related services. It is also interesting that the report was prepared for one of the biggest internet-related service providers, Google. Ian Masser reviews the report:

The answers to the title question may surprise some people. Using material from a variety of different sources, Oxera estimates that the global geo services economy generates somewhere between $150 and $270 billion (£95 to £170 billion) of revenue each year. They point out that while revenue calculations provide an indication of the size of the transactions that are occurring, they do not capture the full economic contribution of a sector. An alternative method of quantifying the impact of a sector is to examine its GVA (gross value added). This can be broken down into the profits accruing to geo services providers and the wages paid to those working in geo services. On this basis, Oxera estimates that the sector has a global GVA of $113 billion, which is roughly 0.2% of the global gross domestic product. In terms of global employment, this amounts to about four million jobs. These estimates suggest that the geo services industry is at least five times the size of the global video games industry and about one third that of the airline industry.

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