PE&RS July 2016 Public - page 480

July 2016
The Evolving ASPRS
Charles Toth
ASPRS has a long and
Founded 82 years ago,
our Society represented
a unique segment of
which was built on film-
based data acquisition and
used the art and science
of photogrammetry to
extract 3D data to produce
maps. This approach was
specific to our community
and there was little or
no interaction with other engineering disciplines. At the
very beginning, the proper error characterization of the
end-product geospatial data became a corner point of our
professional conduct and a unique trademark of ASPRS.
With the arrival of the digital age about two decades ago,
advances in technology, including sensors and computing
infrastructure, started to blur the sharp boundaries between
disciplines. These changes have enriched our profession, as
new sensors could provide improved capabilities and the
traditional mapping applications expanded. The hegemony of
data acquisition from large-format aerial film cameras slowly
gave way to digital sensors and new data processing methods.
The introduction of GPS in the mid-nineties resulted in the
development of the GPS-photogrammetry technique, quickly
followed by direct georeferencing systems that were able to
provide accurate position and attitude information of almost
any data acquisition platform. This capability facilitated the
introduction of LiDAR, which soon became a ubiquitous data
acquisition technology of equal significance to airborne optical
imagery. The list can go on: technological developments never
In parallel, the rapid changes in technology, including
both hardware and software developments, posed challenges
to our Society, as the former “one-stop-shop” model to serve
the entire geospatial community encountered competition
from other disciplines. For decades, the ASPRS annual
conference in the spring represented the most important
“don’t miss” event of the year. Industry showcased the latest
developments, including state-of-the-art technologies and
services; academia provided high-quality contributions to
the technical program; government shared the latest policies
and updates on national projects; and this meeting was
place for networking. With the creation of many new societies
focused on specific application fields related to the acquisition
and use of geospatial data, an overlap with the ASPRS space
emerged over the past two decades. Similarly, manufacturers
and event organizers created tradeshows to promote their
remote sensing technologies, with the primary focus is
on their products and capabilities. These processes have
been amplified by the trend towards using specific sensors
with generic computer/IT technology to support multiple
applications. Recent exhibitions at ASPRS events clearly
demonstrate this tendency.
ASPRS leadership recognized the changing environment
early on, but underestimated the rate of change. Consequently
the early response from our Society was insufficiently
aggressive to address the necessary strategic redirection.
Nevertheless, the steady drop in membership and revenue, the
reduction in size of conferences and the preference for digital
publications and social media, resulting, for example, in the
cessation of revenue from printed advertising, took their tool.
As the challenges grew, ASPRS governance accelerated the
process of restructuring our Society, based on the principles
that a smaller society demanded a simpler, less unwieldy
and more responsive structure and that the time and effort
devoted by members to Society initiatives should be used to
best advantage. Furthermore, the appointment of Dr. Michael
Hauck as Executive Director represented a new management
style, aimed at better supporting the restructuring. Dr.
Stewart Walker’s presidential address gave a detailed review
of the restructuring process, “GEN-X and millennials: ASPRS
is sustainable”,
, June 2014, while Dr. Lynn Usery,
now Immediate Past President, provided a status update
for early 2016, “Prudent changes now for a bright future”,
, February 2016.
In the past few months, several significant milestones have
been reached in the restructuring process and the overhaul
of ASPRS as an organization is practically completed.
Most importantly, the new Bylaws were approved at the
ASPRS Board meeting in Fort Worth, providing a more
flexible structure, better able to accommodate adjustments
necessitated by the ever changing environment. More
precisely, the new Bylaws delegate many functions to the
Operating Procedures, which are easier to modify than the
Bylaws. The new Operating Procedures document requires
more work, which is expected to be completed by Fall 2016.
The complete replacement of the ASPRS membership
database and web portal was probably the most challenging
technical task of the restructuring process. This required
significant planning, effort and coordination by both ASPRS
headquarters and third-party contributors. A new system
was carefully built and configured that could be populated
relatively quickly to recover all past membership records
and avoid noticeable interruption in member services. The
President’s Address
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