Riding the Wavelength 2016

View from Mullard Space Science Laboratory

View from Mullard Space Science Laboratory

Wavelength 2016, the Remote Sensing & Photogrammetry Society’s annual conference for remote sensing students and early career scientists took place last week. The venue was the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) at Holmbury St. Mary, Surrey, whose two hundred year old main building is deceptively stately for a science lab – panelled and furnished with seasoned wood – and had a previous life as an orphanage amongst other things.

Pixalytics, who also sponsored the event, sent two delegates this year: Dr Louisa Reynolds and Catalin Cimpianu, our ERASMUS placement student.

The conference offers a strong scientific programme of keynotes, oral presentations and posters. Catalin gave an oral presentation on the research he has been doing during his placement with us, on ‘Monitoring Urban Sprawl Patterns in the Post-Socialist Romanian Cities Using LANDSAT Imagery’. His presentation seemed to go down well with other attendees, given the questions and feedback he received.

Overall, Catalin really enjoyed the conference and found the other delegates very friendly. He felt the student presentations and posters were based on solid research, and covered a diversity of work from missions to Mars through to expeditions in Antarctica for monitoring penguin colonies. They all proved the usefulness of remote sensing and photogrammetry, together with the need for monitoring features on the Earth to get a better understanding and support sustainable future development.

Both Pixalytics representatives acknowledged the presence of some impressive keynote speakers, particularly Professor Jan-Peter Muller, Head of Imaging Group at MSSL and Kathie Bowden, UK National Space Skills and Career Development Manager at the UK Space Agency. Louisa chaired the session on Vegetation Remote Sensing, but that was not her conference highlight.

As well as offering a strong scientific programme, Wavelength also offers a highly active social scene, and for Louisa the highlight was the tour round MSSL. Seeing high precision satellite electronics being built was exciting, and learning that soldering together two of the tiny hair like legs on a ball grid array by mistake could mean the failure of a sensor demonstrated the precision needed in satellite engineering.

Component for a solar wind analyser

Component for a solar wind analyser

On the tour Louisa also saw ‘in the flesh’ the work benches, sealed and unsealed, for making the components and their housings, to fit inside part of a solar wind analyser seen in the picture on the left. Ensuring dust and water are driven from sensor components is essential to avoid condensation and inaccuracies, something we are very aware of within our work. One of the most interesting things Louisa gained from the tour was the importance of materials science for satellite engineering, such as the indispensability of lead and the lightness of aluminium. She also enjoyed the impressive cuisine of the local restaurants!

The conference generated many ideas on the latest trends and updates in Earth observation, together with suggestions on how to develop skills professional qualifications in the field. The summary of the conference comes from Catalin who said:

‘Well organized conference, the venue, the food, social activities, the attention to details and the organizational skills of the hosts were unquestionable and they proved to be very welcoming and hospitable.‘

Well done to everyone involved in Wavelength 2016, we look forward to being involved again next year!

Pixalytics is growing!

Practical Handbook of Remote Sensing CoverThe last week has seen two significant firsts for Pixalytics!

  • Our first book, Practical Handbook of Remote Sensing, has gone on presale!
  • Our first full time employee joined the company!

Right at the outset of establishing Pixalytics, we put down the DNA of the company we wanted to develop. Science is at the heart of Pixalytics, and we use our scientific knowledge to undertake research and development, provide products and services and to promote the scientific education and knowledge.

As part of that educational strand, we’ve written a book this year. It’s a book Sam has wanted to write for a long time, and takes people without any prior knowledge through the basic principles and science of remote sensing, gives them practical skills to undertake basic remote sensing at home and demonstrates the various applications where remote sensing can be used.

Sam quickly recognised that if she was going to write a general how-to book, she needed someone who knew nothing about the subject, which is where I came in. So together we co-wrote the book combining Sam’s 20 years of experience with my non-expert perspective of navigating through remote sensing for the first time. I have proof-read, tested and applied everything in the book; and so if I can learn remote sensing from it, anyone can!!

The book uses open source software as we wanted it to be as accessible as possible, and will be supported by a website offering news, updates, a learning forum and further exercises for people who’ve bought the book.

The book, Practical Handbook of Remote Sensing, is published by CRC Press of the Taylor & Francis Group. It went on pre-sale last week, and the actual paper copies are due to be shipped later this month. If you are interested you can order a copy here, or if you have any questions, please get in touch.

The second first for us is that we now have a full time employee, Dr Louisa Reynolds! Up until now Pixalytics has just been Sam and I, we’ve had the occasional short-term Erasmus student, PhD student, MSc placements and work experience people along the way, but not a full time employee. We’ve steadily grown the business over the last few years and we’ve reached the point where Sam no longer has enough hours in the day to do the work we have; although, Sam might say we reached that point a little while ago!

Hence, on Monday Louisa joined Pixalytics as an Earth Observation Scientist and brings with her strong skills in remote sensing, image processing, astrophysics, atmospheric and ocean physics. She will be providing support to Sam on all aspects of our Earth Observation and remote sensing work. This will significantly increase the capacity and capability of the company, which will hopefully lead to exciting new work in the future.

Overall, these are both major milestones for us and we’re delighted to welcome both Louisa and the Practical Handbook of Remote Sensing to Pixalytics.