Areas of Study
Geomatics as a discipline encompasses many fields involved in collecting, managing, analyzing and displaying geospatial information. Our program focuses on the following interrelated areas of study within the wide arena of geospatial information:
Digital Imaging and Mapping
By its nature, the study of digital imaging and mapping inevitably involves the use of a computer and associated software, and there are many examples and applications. One might use image processing software in order to detect the spread of disease in a forest. Data from digital sensors can be processed in order to produce a planimetrically correct image “map” called an orthophoto. Flood prone areas can be identified by computer processing of a large number of X,Y,Z data points on the surface of the terrain (collected by a system commonly known as LIDAR). This is just a small sample of the many applications in digital imaging and mapping.
Angles and distances are measured by survey/geodetic equipment to determine locations of points on the surface of the Earth. Geodesy has two main branches, geometric and physical. Geometric geodesy handles positioning problems on the surface of the Earth using a spherical/ellipsoidal model. Satellite geodesy and geodetic astronomy, where either Earth orbiting satellites or celestial bodies are used to locate points on the Earth’s surface, are considered two sub-branches of geometric geodesy. Physical geodesy, on the other hand, studies the Earth’s gravity field to determine the Geoid and other equipotential surfaces. Physical geodesy models tie the mathematical model of the Earth to survey measurements. The Geoid, considered a best fit to the mean sea level, is also the datum for leveling heights. Both geometric geodesy and physical geodesy handle time-dependent variations of the coordinate systems caused by the Earth rotation, polar motion, and other perturbations. Geodesy as an Earth science is a corner stone in other Earth sciences like geography, geology, geophysics, oceanography, and glaciology. Geodesy as an applied science and technology lends itself to engineering, informatics, and professional surveying and mapping.
Geographic Information Science
Geographic Information System (GIS)
Recently, GIS applications have shifted towards web-based services. A web client application can display, query, and analyze GIS data through the internet. Web-based applications such as Google Earth have become very popular and have introduced GIS concepts to the public. Many wireless GIS applications are also being developed for the navigation and vehicle-tracking market.
Global Positioning System
The GPS system itself consists of three main segments, space, control, and user segments. The space segment consists of a constellation of at least 24 satellites orbiting the Earth’s in nearly circular orbital plane at an approximate altitude of about 22,000 km above the Earth’s surface. Each satellite orbits the Earth twice every day. The expected life span for modern satellites is around 10 years after which the satellite has to be replaced. Each satellite is equipped with a precise atomic clock accurate to one billionth of a second. The satellites transmit radio signals which when received on the Earth’s surface by a GPS receiver enables the observer to locate itself with respect to an Earth-Fixed-Earth-Centered Coordinate system with high accuracy. The user segment is in effect the receiver and the antenna used to receive and decode the satellite signal. The control segment consists of five ground monitoring stations in Hawaii, Ascension Island, Diego Garcia, Kwajalein, and Colorado Springs. The station in Colorado Springs also serves as a master station that transmits corrections to the satellites for satellite ephemeris parameters and clock coefficients.
is the science of obtaining reliable measurements from photographs (images) in order to determine characteristics such as: size, shape, and position of photographed objects. The objective of photogrammetry is to invert the process of photography to reconstruct object space features such as buildings, roads, and shore lines. The output of photogrammetry is typically a map, drawing or a 3D model of some real-world object or scene. Many of the maps we use today are created with photogrammetry and photographs taken from aircraft.
Photogrammetry can be classified in a number of ways. One standard method is to divide photogrammetry based on camera location during photography. On this basis we have Aerial Photogrammetry, and Close-Range Photogrammetry.
- In Aerial Photogrammetry the camera is mounted in an aircraft and is usually pointed vertically towards the ground. Multiple overlapping photos of the ground are taken as the aircraft flies along a flight path. These photos are processed to generate several products such as topographic maps, contour plans, and 3D surfaces
- In Close-range Photogrammetry the camera is close to the object and is typically hand held or on a tripod. Usually this type of photogrammetry is used in non-topographic applications. Consumers-grade cameras are used to model buildings, engineering structures, vehicles, forensic and accident scenes, film sets, etc.
Land Tenure and Cadastral Studies
Land tenure systems define how a community (indigenous group), society or country assigns rights to its land and natural resources. These rules may be defined through formal law or through unwritten custom. Cadastral studies focuses on the cadastral and land registration systems that are used to document and secure land tenure rights. It includes processes such as cadastral (boundary) surveying, principles for resolving boundary ambiguities, and linking these spatial data to legal data describing the nature of the bundle of rights associated with an individual parcel of land. Our research has a significant focus on land tenure and cadastral issues in developing countries, where many landholders do not have formal documentation of their rights and where land administration systems are often overly centralized and bureaucratic.
Since land tenure is relevant to a number of disciplines, we work with faculty and students from several other units on campus. Through this collaboration we are carrying out research on the resilience of social-ecological systems in the SW Amazon and elsewhere. We have also begun to examine the role of land tenure in the governance of valuable natural resources, such as wildlife in Southern Africa.
Professional Surveying and Mapping
A large percentage of the Geomatics graduates from the University of Florida go on into careers leading to professional licensure. After obtaining a baccalaureate degree, rigorous examinations must be passed and appropriate experience and moral character documented in order to acquire a license to be a professional surveyor and mapper.
Applications of remote sensing include: land use/land cover mapping, forest inventories, wildlife habitat mapping, soils mapping, wetland mapping, topographic mapping, deformation analysis, deforestation analysis, urban planning and geological mapping, to name a few examples.