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Standards-Based Technology Provides Insight into Tropical Forests

New York, Jan 29, 2009

The dense vegetation found in certain ecosystems makes traditional survey- and satellite-based methods of studying land difficult and inaccurate. With the help of standards for GPS and laser equipment, a new technique has allowed scientists to evaluate and study landscape-scale changes in Hawaiian tropical forests.

Scientists from the U.S. Forest Service and the Carnegie Institution used both data acquired through traditional field measurements and data gathered from new airborne technology by the Carnegie Airborne Observatory. With these data sets, scientists were able to reach new conclusions about the significant effects that non-native plants, climate change, and other factors can have upon these delicate environments.

According to the study, which was published this month in the journal Ecosystems, researchers developed a system that uses a combination of sensitive, elevation-measuring lasers, GPS, and advanced imaging spectrometers that can identify plant species from aircraft.

Each of the technologies employed in the study was developed and implemented with the support of standards. The safe use of lasers is addressed in a package of standards developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). IEC 60825, Safety of Laser Products Package, provides a compliance checklist, manufacturers’ checklist, and a user’s guide that can be applied to research, education, medical and consumer products.

IEC 60825 was developed by Technical Committee (TC) 76, Optical radiation safety and laser equipment. The U.S. holds key leadership roles in IEC/TC 76. Jerome Dennis, a consultant in product optical radiation safety, serves as chairman, and the United States National Committee (USNC) has delegated secretariat duties to William Ertle of Rockwell Laser Industries, Inc. The USNC-approved Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator for TC 76 is the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), a member and accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

The lasers employed in the experiment gathered data through Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), an optical remote sensing technology that measures properties of scattered light to find information about a distant target. BSR/INCITS PN-1844-D-200x, Information technology - Topographic LiDAR Remote, is a draft standard being developed by the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer. The standard will provide framework guidance for system developers, component manufactures, implementers, applications, and final users of LiDAR while fostering innovation and the development of new technology.

A GPS was used in the study to provide specific information on where the data sets were being taken. The use of GPS to survey land is outlined in ISO 17123-8:2007, Optics and optical instruments - Field procedures for testing geodetic and surveying instruments - Part 8: GNSS field measurement systems in real-time kinematic (RTK). This standard provides a guide for determining and evaluating the precision of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) field measurement systems, including GPS and others that are used in building, surveying and industrial measurements.

ISO 17123-8 was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) TC 172, Optics and photonics, subcommittee (SC) 6, Geodetic and surveying instruments. The ANSI-accredited U.S. TAG administrator to TC 172/SC 6 is the Optics and Electro-Optics Standards Council, an ANSI member and accredited standards developer.

For more information results of the study, click here.

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