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Feature Article Archive



This is the sixth article in a series created to bring OARS members up-to-date on remote sensing and related activities in industry, academia, and government.

OARS is grateful to Dr. Douglas King, Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University for preparing this article. - Ed.

A. Introduction

The Geographic Information Processing (GIP) Program in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario is one of the largest and most diverse in Canada. It offers a variety of degrees and an extensive set of courses in both undergraduate and graduate levels. They range from a specialized GIP Honour’s Degree to combined degrees with other Departments such as Biology. Ten courses in geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing and cartography are available at the undergraduate level, and five graduate courses for Master’s and Ph.D. students. Teaching and research supervision are provided by four professors and three instructors. Additionally, other applications courses include these subjects in their curricula.

B. Courses making up the GIP Program

Any or all of the following courses can be taken, depending on the degree selected (see part D below).

  • One introductory course in the GIP fields (not required for students with high school Geomatics).
  • 5 GIS courses, from 2nd year to 4th year. Early courses are introductory, later courses are advanced including multivariate modelling and error propagation analysis.
  • 2 remote sensing courses in 3rd and 4th year including image processing, thematic mapping and environmental modelling.
  • 2 cartography courses in 3rd and 4th year including cartographic design and computer cartography.
  • A practicum placement in government or industry to gain GIP work experience. (Ottawa, being home to major Canadian government geomatics agencies and many geomatics firms, is an ideal location for GIP-type internships.)
  • One statistics course on using multivariate statistics for analyzing complex human or physical geographical data.
  • A 4th year honour’s research project or workshop requiring the preparation of a major report.


C. Laboratory Facilities

Two teaching laboratories consisting altogether (as of September, 2001) 30 high end computers with the following data processing and analysis software: ARC/Info, ARCView, PCI Image Analysis, IDRISI, MapInfo, CorelDraw and PhotoPaint. Another laboratory, part of the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre, has six computers and similar software and is devoted to research (see part F below).

D. Undergraduate Options

Below are summaries only. For details, please refer to the web sites or contact Professor King (see part G below).

1. Specialized GIP B.A. Honour’s Degree

This limited-enrollment program (current maximum is 16 in each year) is for students who wish to focus on the acquisition, management, analysis, and display of geographic information. Applications in planning, environmental and resources management, hazard mapping, demographics, market analysis, and education will be explored. Practical experience will be gained in GIS, digital cartography, remote sensing, and quantitative analysis. Students take all the courses listed in part B (above) plus additional courses in Geography or other programs.

2. B.Sc. Honour’s Physical Geography with Concentration in GIP

Within the physical geography program, students take a subset of the GIP courses in part B (above) plus the Practicum and the Honour’s research project/workshop.

3. Minor In GIP

Students may enroll in other departments such as Biology or Political Science and take a subset of six of the courses listed in part B (above) plus two other required geography courses as a ‘minor’ to their degree.

4. Individual courses

Students may take any of the above courses without being in a specific GIP degree program provided pre-requisites for the course are met.

E. Graduate Program

Two seminar-type courses and two directed-study courses in GIS, remote sensing and cartography are offered. A graduate level introductory GIS course is available to students without previous experience. Also, complementary courses can be taken at the University of Ottawa for credit.

Three professors and two adjunct professors conduct research in which GIS, remote sensing or cartography are major components. Other research involves application of these techniques.

The GIP graduate program currently has 15 Master’s and Ph.D. students. Research projects include: Web-based Cartography, Geomatics in Developing Countries, Biophysical Modelling, Multi-scale Vegetation Analysis, Land Cover Mapping, Environmental Assessment, and optical and radar applications. Additionally, extensive fieldwork and remote sensing data acquisition are significant components in projects on (1) high-resolution airborne digital camera imaging for ice storm damage monitoring, mine contamination of adjacent forests, and forest regeneration assessment, (2) multi-scale ecological data analysis for species conservation (jointly with the Biology Department) and (3) indigenous land use analysis.

The following four recent graduate theses illustrate the broad range of research topics that may be pursued. Contact the Department for more details.

- The role of geomatics in supporting sustainable development policy-making. Ph.D. thesis.

- Modelling forest structure and health using high-resolution airborne imagery: Investigation of spectral unmixing and spatial analysis of radiometric fractions. Ph.D. thesis.

- Temporal analysis of forest change at an abandoned mine site using high-resolution remote sensing. Master’s thesis.

- Cartography and the geometry of space: Re-imagining the legacy of Claudius Ptolemy. Master’s thesis.


F. Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre

The Centre is one of three formal university Organized Research Units in the Department. It is run by Professors F. Taylor (Chair) and D. King. It has its own laboratory and conducts research in geomatics and cartography with Canadian and international partners.

G. More Information

Summaries of the degrees and minors in the undergraduate and graduate programs are available from: http://www.carleton.ca/geography/geography/geo_ug_main.html

Details of these programs and courses are in the Geography entry of the university calendar at:



Undergraduate GIP Chair: Professor Doug King, phone: 613-520-2561;
doug_king@carleton.ca up to July 2002.
After that, Dan Patterson, phone: 613-520-2561; e-mail

Graduate Chair: Professor Fraser Taylor, phone: 613-520-2561; e-mail: fraser_taylor@carleton.ca


SEPTEMBER 08, 2000

These Power Point slides were originally published as a feature article in the November 1999 issue (Vol. 22, No. 2) of the OARS Newsletter. They are reproduced here because of potential interest to members who have joined since then. Thanks to Mr. Murray LeGris, Executive Director of the Ontario Association of Land Surveyors (AOLS) for giving OARS the permission to post.

For more information about AOLS or OLIP, visit www.aols.org.

If you have Microsoft Power Point on your computer, Click here.

If you do not have Microsoft Power Point on you computer, Click here.
(A self-extracting file containing the slides and a viewer will need to be downloaded to your computer. Once the download is complete (1.08 Mb so it might take a while depending on your internet connection speed), open the file 'OLIP.exe' and follow the prompts. 2 files will be unzipped. Open the file named 'pngsetup.exe' and the slide show will automatically run.)

MAY 11, 2000

This is the fifth article in a series created to bring OARS members up-to-date on remote sensing and related activities in industry, academia, and government; and with our emphasis now on relying upon the Internet for dissemination and communication, it is the first to appear on our website.

In remote sensing, attention is usually focussed on image analyses and applications. Data acquisition although basic to the entire process, is somewhat taken for granted; and this is often the case with the most common source of airborne data, aerial photography. By profiling the Airborne Sensing Corporation in Toronto, OARS hopes to introduce the highly specialized field of taking airphotos to members unfamiliar with the subject and to update long-time practitioners on current practices and trends.

OARS is grateful to Mr. Alexander Giannelia, President of the Airborne Sensing Corporation for providing materials for this articles and for making it possible.



Taking aerial photography suitable for mapping (photogrammetry) and visual analysis (photo interpretation and image analysis) is a highly sophisticated process requiring specialized equipment and techniques and skilled operators. In Ontario, only 3 firms (at the time of writing) meet the federal government's requirements for aerial photography. The Airborne Sensing Corporation in Toronto is one. The company, established in 1981, is based at and operates out of the Toronto City Centre Airport on the Toronto Islands. Although the process of taking precision aerial photographs remains essentially unchanged over the years, the business aspect has expanded. Previously, the practice was to fly the photography and deliver only the exposed films and the hard copies. Today, because of convergence of technologies, deliverables tend to also include airborne GPS data to facilitate downstream processes and products.


The company offers a full range of services in black-and-white and colour aerial photography - from project planning, flight planning, flying, film processing to producing digital or hard copies. Additional services include providing data for aerial triangulation by GPS and creating digital orthophotos.

The company is one of the first In Ontario to apply GPS technology to aerial photography and photogrammetric mapping. Its photo lab is Ontario's first private colour aerial photofinishing facility.


Aircraft: Two Piper PA-23-250 Turbo Aztec F ( Model F of the Aztec series with twin turbocharged piston engines ) with "Category A" camera ports.
Cameras: Two Zeiss Jena LMK photogrammetric camera with forward motion compensation.

Each camera is equipped with precise time interface for GPS/INS work.

Lenses: Two 6-in Zeiss Lamegon lenses.

Cameras and lenses are calibrated to National Research Council of Canada and U.S. Geological Survey standards.

Magazines: Zeiss LMK-1000 models. Magazines have "Real Time Data Projectors" to imprint position, time, and other data on each exposed frame.
Navigation: Primary navigation is by the "Accuphoto GPS Flight Management System" which uses real-time, differential GPS as input. Secondary navigation is by either the "ARNAV R-40" Loran-C receiver or the "TRIMBLE 2000A" GPS receiver. Backup is either the KOLLSMAN Navigation Telescope or the BENDIX B-3 driftmeter.

"Primary" system is the one used to fly the flight lines. "Secondary" system is used by the pilot to get to the project site. It will also be used to navigate the flight lines if the primary system fails. When used in this role, the time interface on the camera is de-activated. The telescope and driftmeter are traditional tools for visual navigation along flight lines. They are used mainly to confirm line starts and stops.

Airborne Kinematic GPS System:

The system provides precise position of perspective centres at the instant of exposure. It consists of base station receivers and equipment on board the aircraft.

Base Station Receivers: Three NOVATEL MILLENIUM and two NOVATEL 3151 receivers, all with geodetic antennae, tripods, and data-logging laptop computers.

Components on board each aircraft are:

(a) a NOVATEL MILLENIUM dual-frequency carrier phase receiver, identical to the base station receiver;

(b) an antenna and pre-amplifier specific to the make of the GPS receiver. Supported makes are Astech, Trimble, and Novatel. (When switching receivers, the original antenna and pre-amplifier can be dismounted and appropriate units installed quickly. )

(c) a notebook computer for logging GPS data for post processing;

(d) high speed serial link between receiver and computer.

Photo Lab: Film Processor: KODAK VERSAMAT model. Processes film, contact prints and diapositives.
  Contact printer: LogEtronics" Mark IV-C model. Produces 9" x 9" colour or black-and-white prints and diapositives.
  Enlargers: DURST and DEVERE models.
  Processor: KREONITE model. Processes colour_prints, diapositives and enlargements up to 42".
  Sensitometers: Transmission and reflection types.
  Scanner: VEXCEL Model 4000HT. For rasterizing individual exposures.
Plotting: Pen plotter. HEWLETT PACKARD Draftmaster E-size model. For plotting flight lines. Uses in house-developed software to register exposure points onto paper map from GPS data captured onboard.
Software: Flight planning, GPS post-processing, block adjustment, geodetic transformation and datum transformation packages.


7 permanent staff, plus part-time personnel and interns.
Permanent Staff:

Alex Giannelia: President and General Manager
Elisabeth Giannelia: Comptroller
Peter Cimbron: Photo Lab Manager and Assistant General Manager
Scott Bechervaise: Chief Pilot and Assistant Maintenance Manager
Gabriel Guillen: Image System Specialist
Pierre Landry: Pilot
Chris Ashley: Camera Operator.

Part-time Staff and Interns:

Doug Parent: Intern, May 1999 - August 2000. Geomatics Engineering Program, University of Calgary.
Wendy Dillane: Summer Student, May 1 - August 30, 2000. Geomatics Engineering Program, Ryerson Polytechnic University.
Artur Fidera: Summer Student, May 1 - August 30, 2000. Geomatics Engineering Program, Ryerson Polytechnic University.
Dennis Tran: Scanning Technician and Software Developer. Part-time/Summer.
Calvin Yiu: Scanning Technician. Part-time/Summer.


1,500+ projects completed in 19 years.

Project purposes: Photogrammetric mapping, forest inventory, base mapping, environmental studies, water quality surveys, mineral exploration, digital orthophoto production etc.

Clients ( the company works either as prime or sub-contractor ): Canadian government, Ontario and other provincial ministries and municipalities, US counties and municipalities, local and foreign land developers.

Project areas: From Idaho, U.S. in the west to Bermuda in the east and from Iqaluit (Frobisher Bay) in the north to Aruba in the south.

Current examples:

o Forest Inventory

Client: Nova Scotia Ministry of Forest Resources. Year: 1997/1998. Site: Pictou County/Cape Breton Island. Photography: 1: 10,000 colour. Coverage: 4,500+ line-km each. Services: Aerial photography, film processing, sample prints.

Client: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Year: 1994. Site: Northern Ontario. Photography: 1: 20,0000 B&W. Coverage: 6,000+ line-km. Services: Aerial photography, film processing.

o Photogrammetric Mapping

Client: Roanoke International Airport. Site: Roanoke, Virginia. Photography: 1: 40,000 B&W. Services: Airborne GPS data ( kinematic GPS-derived co-ordinates of antenna ) for aerial triangulation, aerial photography, film processing and printing. Services were provided for obstacle mapping by a consultant in a US Federal Aviation Administration program. Similarly, 13 other airports east of the Mississippi River were covered.

Client: Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Site: Hwy 400, Toronto - Barrie. Photography: 1: 3,000 B&W. Services: Aerial photography, airborne GPS data for aerial triangulation.

o Environmental and Engineering Studies

Client: Marshall Macklin Monaghan acting as consultant to the Government of Bermuda. Site: Bermuda. Photography: 1: 30,000 colour over coral reefs, 1: 10,000 over land. Services: Aerial photography, film processing and printing.

Client: Labrador Hydro. Site: Proposed flooded area for the Lower Churchill Project and transmission corridors to St. John=s, Newfoundland. Photography: 1: 8,000, 1: 12,500 and 1: 20,000 colour. Coverage: 40,000 sq. km. Services: Control survey network development, aerial photography, raw kinematic and static GPS data for network adjustment, airborne GPS data for aerial triangulation, film processing and production of paper prints and diapositives from 5,000+ negatives.

o Municipal Mapping

Client: The Map Factory- HJW, U.S. Sites: Dade & Broward Counties, Florida. Photography: 1:24,000 B&W. Services: Aerial photography, selecting ground control points and providing airborne GPS data for aerial triangulation.

Clients: Major U.S. consulting engineering firms. Sites: U.S. cities such as Fort Myers, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, St. Petersburg, Tampa in Florida; Atlanta, Savannah in Georgia; Charleston, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina; Nashville in Tennessee. Photography: 1: 24,000 colour. Services: Aerial photography, airborne GPS data for aerial triangulation.

o Land Development

Client: Private developer. Site: Ambergris Caye, Belize. Photography: 1: 30,000 colour. Services: Targetting, aerial photography, airborne GPS data collection, aerial triangulation, digital orthophotos.

o Digital Orthophotos

Client: HJW for NYNEX. Site: Boston, Massachusetts. Photography: 1: 40,000 B&W. Coverage: 5,000 sq. mi. Services: Aerial photography, aerial triangulation.



As in other fields today, the practice of aerial photography is affected by new and continuously improving technologies; and additionally, by the convergence of remote sensing, photogrammetry, cartography, GPS and GIS. To gain some perspective, OARS has asked Mr. Alexander Giannelia, President of the company, to comment on the following in terms of their effects on airborne data acquisition:

(Comments are inside quotation marks and are reproduced verbatim.)

1. Digital Aerial Cameras:

"We find them to be an inevitable development. Issues that need to be resolved are the fact that aircraft environments are inimical to the successful and reliable operation of electronics and why abandon film technology when it has overcome these problems. The only advantage we see in digital is the reduced post-processing time because scanning should not be necessary. This however has to be balanced against our experience that downloading of KGPS/INS data is already an onerous task, so why add to the confusion.

Our bias in favour of film is strictly related to the practicality of handling large data sets in an optical/chemical as opposed to a digital manner. However, if the market demands digital and we cannot emulate it using film-based imagery, we will go digital.

An historical anecdote: In 1981, when the Airborne Sensing Corporation purchased its first camera, a Fairchild KA2, we were asked why we didn't buy a first order film-based photogrammetric camera. Our view at that time was that digital cameras would be available soon, so why invest in "old" technology? In 1982, we purchased our first photogrammetric camera; in 1991, our first FMC camera with GPS interface and in 1996, our second FMC camera with GPS interface. We are still waiting."

2. Softcopy Photogrammetry:

"The Airborne Sensing Corporation specializes in all the data collection, processing and preparation for photogrammetry. Softcopy photogrammetry with its emphasis on image quality has raised concerns which did not exist in vector- based (as opposed to digital orthoimage) mapping. Now more clients are asking for time matching on large blocks to ensure uniformity of image. Film handling is more critical to avoid contaminants and our expertise in image quality and colour imaging is more in demand now than ever before."

3. GPS:

"GPS has been the main reason for the company=s growth since 1993. Our ability and willingness to undertake the risks of GPS projects anywhere anytime gave us the opportunity to open the U.S. market. Interestingly, the acceptance of GPS was much higher in all areas except Ontario, with some clients only now being able to use such data effectively.

The costs of GPS missions however are greater because the crew now has to land to set up base stations, survey in the locations of those stations relative to the project area, and sometimes wait for optimal constellations. The risks of the data collection not going well are ever present and can only be managed by establishing and following strict procedures."

4. High Resolution (1m) Satellite Imagery:

"We notice that with 1m data becoming available, there is an even greater awareness of what georereferenced image data can do and this has resulted in even more aerial photography work being requested. We don=t however expect that Canada will ever be rephotographed from the air as was done between 1946 and 1968.

Aerial photography will be used increasingly as a non-intrusive means of measuring and assessing the ground at the decimeter level."

5. The Internet

"Since 1988, we have used electronic data communication regularly in our mission control and client communications. We use the Internet both as a source of information as well as a means of disseminating late breaking news.

Because our clients in the mapping business have traditionally acted as "retailers" for our products, we have not yet created a site to download images. Two clients in particular have commenced programmes where our imagery will be available on the Web under their auspices.

We feel the Internet has the potential to be the best distribution system for up-to-date aerial imagery and will very quickly replace traditional photo libraries and order systems and we welcome this development."

6. Vision of the Airborne Sensing Corporation:

"As long as this planet remains the same size and has to support an ever increasing population, there will be a growing need for an industry which quickly, accurately and fairly allows the measurement of the Earth' s surface with minimal intrusion. And as long as the community of users continues to show its diversity, we feel that decentralized custom sources of Earth data will have a growing place in the geomatics market."


For more information on the company or on aerial photography, contact Alexander Giannelia at:

The Airborne Sensing Corporation
Toronto City Centre Airport
Hangar 6, Suite 110
Toronto, Ontario M5V 1A1

Phone: 416 203-9858
Fax: 416 203-9843

OCTOBER 02, 2000

The article below was published in the June 1999 issue (Vol. 22, No. 1) of the OARS Newsletter and is reproduced verbatim here.


by Lawton Tam

This is the second of a series of articles to bring members up-to-date on remote sensing and related activities in industry, academia, and government. In the last issue, Ontario Hydro ( now Ontario Hydro Services Co. ) and the Earth Observation Laboratory at the University of Waterloo were profiled. This issue covers the new Geomatics Engineering Option at Ryerson Polytechnic University. OARS Newsletter would like to thank Professor Ian Hale of the Department of Civil Engineering at Ryerson Polytechnic University for providing materials for this article and reviewing the draft.


Technological developments are blurring the boundaries of traditional disciplines dealing with geographically-referenced data. Technologies once considered the exclusive domain of surveyors and mappers are now commonly employed directly by a wide range of users such as resource planners and civil engineers. Sometime ago, the term "geomatics" was introduced.

Geomatics has been defined as the art, science, and technologies involved in managing geographically-referenced information, including its acquisition, storage, analysis, and dissemination. The term, therefore, not only encompasses "traditional" disciplines such as surveying, remote sensing, photogrammetry, and cartography, but also the more "recent" ones such as spatial data management and GIS. In Ontario, the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors, the professional licensing body on surveying for the province, has broadened its definition of surveying and mapping to include geomatics. Hence, "geomatics" is replacing "surveying and mapping" in usage.

The Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Ryerson Polytechnic University now offers 2 programs leading to the Bachelor of Engineering ( Civil ) degree: one is pure civil engineering; the other is the new Geomatics Engineering Option. The Geomatics Engineering Option is created to meet the needs resulting from increasing integration in the practice of civil engineering and geomatics. It is the latest in a series of programs aimed at providing surveying/geomatics education through Civil Engineering at Ryerson*.

* Other geomatics programs are available at Ryerson, but without an engineering focus.


In the mid-1960s, the Association of Ontario Land Surveyors ( AOLS ) approached Ryerson with a request for a separate Survey Technology program in the then Department of Civil Technology. As a result, a 3-year program leading to a diploma in Surveying Engineering Technology was created in 1966.

In 1972, the program was extended to 4 years, leading to a unique Bachelor of Technology degree, the first to be offered by Ryerson. It was named "Geodetic Sciences" until 1981 before reverting to the more familiar "Survey Engineering Technology". The program focussed entirely on surveying and related engineering subjects. Course credits were equivalent to about 80% of AOLS accreditation requirements. Although extremely popular with employers and well-regarded by schools of graduate studies in Canada and the U.S., the program appeared as less desirable than other engineering programs at Ryerson because it was not fully accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board ( CEAB ) or the AOLS.

Since the early 1990s, there has been a growing market for non-geomatics professionals who have sufficient knowledge and skills in geomatics to support their primary responsibilities. In particular, the trend of a strong linkage between geomatics and the various engineering disciplines ( especially civil ), has been apparent, and because of it, the need for a professional education program which combines the two was defined.

Accordingly, in 1995, shortly after Ryerson became a university, the 4-year Survey Engineering program was restructured into the "Geomatics Engineering Option in Civil Engineering", after consultation with advisory committees, leading practitioners and educators in geomatics, accreditation boards, and faculty and student committees at the university. Restructuring was carried out mostly by Professors I. Hale and M. Hodson, under the direction and guidance of Dr. R. Salvas, department chair.

The Geomatics Engineering Option

The Geomatics Engineering Option is unique in Ontario. It is one of only 4 such programs in Canada. ( The other 3 are at the University of Calgary, Universite Laval, and the University of New Brunswick ). It is a program in civil engineering with special emphasis in geomatics. The intent is to prepare graduates for career opportunities in civil engineering as well as in the geomatics industry. It has full CEAB accreditation. With the AOLS, accreditation requires additional courses in cadastral surveying and professional practice that are not in the present curriculum.

The first 2 years of the Geomatics Engineering Option and the regular civil engineering program are common. After completing the second year, students can choose to enter the Option. Curriculum for the Option focusses on digital mapping, remote sensing, information and communication technologies, spatial data management systems, and GIS. Courses unique to the Option are as below:

Year Semester Course1, 2
3 5th
  • Advanced Geomatics3
  • Geodesy and Map Projections
  • Municipal Planning and Engineering
  • Adjustment Basics
  • Remote Sensing
  • Satellite and Physical Geodesy
  • Advanced Adjustments
4 7th
  • Terrain Analysis
  • Photogrammetry
  • Spatial Information Management Systems 1
  • Digital Mapping
  • Spatial Information Management Systems 2
  • Survey Design

1. All courses are one semester in duration.
2. Survey Law and other Legal Surveying subjects are omitted with the understanding that their coverage will be provided external to the Option.
3. A one-semester course, "Introduction to Geomatics", is prescribed for both the regular program and the Geomatics Engineering Option in the 4th semester ( Year 2 ).

Field school at present is not a requirement but will be in the future. A co-op program is in place for students either entering into or already in the Option ( after the second and third year ). To date, arrangements with the geomatics industry have been informal. In 2000, they will become official and students will be guaranteed relevant assignments for their work terms.

The Option was available for first time in 1998, for the fall semester. The time line is as follows:

1995 Option approved.
1996 First year intake of potential Option cohort.
1998 - Last graduating class of the former "Survey Engineering" program.
- Option available for the first time. Intake was 4 students.
1999 22 out of 80 second year students have committed to the Option.
2000 First graduating class of the Option.

Projected steady state enrollment in the Option is 25.

For more information, contact:

Professor Ian Hale
Coordinator, Geomatics Engineering Option
Department of Civil Engineering
Ryerson Polytechnic University
350 Victoria St.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5B 2K3
Phone: 416- 979-5191
Fax: 416- 979-5122