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Monday, June 27, 2022

Academics & Research

NSF Center makes move to UH

The National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping Director Ramesh Shrestha decided to move the center from the University of Florida to UH. | Courtesy of

The National Science Foundation’s National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping recently moved research operations from the University of Florida to UH.

Most of the staff was brought to Houston, and they will now operate the center along with the University of California-Berkley.

Unlike other centers at UH, this is the first center completely supported by the NSF.  Usually, the University sets up centers using funds or grants.

Since the center opened in 2003, Ramesh Shrestha, the center’s director, has focused his work on laser scanning technology and airborne laser swath mapping.

“With the center, we have brought laser mapping’s uses to the forefront and expect to continue to have this impact in our new Houston home,” Shrestha said in a press release.  “We plan to establish curriculum catered to this specialty and eventually add a graduate degree in geosensing systems engineering.  This is in addition to carrying out research far surpassing what is capable in laser mapping to date.”

UH research professor Bill Carter, who worked with Shrestha in the ’90s and helped establish the NCALM, said he is happy to see the center is being brought to Houston.

“Together, we saw its potential to far exceed what was possible with many traditional methods, such as airborne photogrammetric mapping that uses cameras to detail terrain,” Carter said in a press release.  “Laser mapping has the ability to work day or night, as well as generally map areas even though they were covered by forests and other vegetation where photogrammetric methods couldn’t.”

Carter and Shrestha developed mapping techniques that minimize errors.  Their equipment now maps as many as 167,000 points per second, compared to the 3,000 they were able to achieve when they first started.

Because of their developments, they have changed how erosions on Florida’s coastline are monitored.

According to a press release, the NCALM team hopes to also explore the possibility of using Light Detection and Ranging to map glacial movements and the migration of penguin colonies in Antarctica. This would also reduce the air time needed to collect information and would be the first time shallow water depths would be infiltrated.

“In coming years, our group plans to develop a next-generation LiDAR system.  The unit would be less expensive than commercially available systems and allow for some of the most accurate, highest-resolution observations possible in laser mapping,” Shrestha said in the press release.  “We want to develop a system like no one else has developed.  It would really change what could be done with this technology.  It would have new features, be faster (and) smaller and capture more during each flight than we can today.”

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