A Commitment to Quality

A Commitment to Quality


James Hume, President, Eagle Mapping

James Hume, President of Eagle Mapping has a background in mechanical engineering, but in the summers, he worked with his father at Eagle Mapping doing map editing. His father started Eagle Mapping in 1985 with a focus on aerial photography.  

James joined Eagle Mapping in 2007, right when the US housing market collapsed. 2008 and 2009 were hard years as everyone worked at keeping the company together. James explained, “We knew we had to purchase a LiDAR sensor to keep up with technology and hopefully, get the company back on its feet. So, in 2010, using my engineering background I put a RIEGL VQ-480 with a Novatel SPAN-SE, and iMAR FSAS IMU. We were able to get up and running that summer and we continued to add sensors, as we went along.”

In 2012, Eagle Mapping purchased a VQ-580. They started doing work all over North, Central and South America. They spent a lot of time in Colombia and even temporarily opened an office there.

Critical Sensor Investments

  “One of the best decisions that we have made over the years was to go all out and purchase a RIEGL LMS-Q1560. I believe we were one of the first in North America to deploy this sensor. It really elevated the company, having what I considered the most powerful and accurate LiDAR sensor on the market at the time. Even today, it can wipe the floor with some newer sensors in the mountains with 3000-4000 ft of terrain relief,” James noted.

James Hume with one of Eagle Mapping’s first RIEGL sensors installed in their Cessna 206

Eagle Mapping subsequently purchased a RIEGL LMS-Q780 in 2016, a RIEGL VQ-780i in 2018, and a RIEGL VQ-1560i in 2019. Eagle Mapping also purchased a used RIEGL LMS-Q1560 in 2018, to help with the rapidly expanding workload. In 2020, they upgraded their VQs to the VQ-780 II  and VQ-1560 II. Later this year (2021), they plan to upgrade these to the VQ-780 II-S and VQ-1560 II-S.


James explains, “We chose RIEGL when purchasing our first LiDAR scanner in 2010 because they were the only major manufacturer offering rotating mirror design for even point distribution across the full field of view. At the time we did not own our own aircraft, so it was important to have the flexibility of using multiple platforms for a variety of speeds and flying heights, while still acquiring a seamless dataset collected with utmost efficiency. To this day, the easy portability of the smaller RIEGL VQ-480, VQ-580 and VQ-780 scanners continue to drive our business in foreign markets. Technology has changed of course since we entered the LiDAR business, but we can always rely on the even distribution and seamless coverage from our RIEGL sensors.”

As long time RIEGL customers, Eagle Mapping’s workflows have been designed around RIEGL products from day one. Their in-house classification macros, paired with RIEGL’s ongoing processing software development allow them to extract clean and accurate point cloud data. 

Eagle Mapping’s approach to quickly adopt new technologies has allowed them the opportunity to overcome and learn from new challenges that may arise. From writing classification algorithms to remove air particle returns from increasingly-sensitive instruments, to developing data storage systems to manage the sheer volume of waveform data their 4MHz scanners produce, Eagle Mapping’s experience is constantly evolving! 

Real World Experience 

James provided the following project category recaps:

Features like Mayan pyramids, old trails, home pits, middens, stone fences, almost any feature that involves altering the landscape can be observed with LiDAR. 

Archaeology – We uncovered transportation routes of a lost civilization in the Mayan jungle which had been hidden under centuries of vegetation growth. By filtering out ground from the point clouds, the linear patterns of transportation routes appeared that had previously been impossible to find, even with years of on-location surveying.

Resource Management – The dual scan pattern of our RIEGL LMS-Q1560 and VQ-1560 II sensors penetrates below the dense rainforest canopy of the Pacific Northwest providing good ground density. This allows us to produce ground surfaces and canopy height models quickly and efficiently for forest inventory. Our clients are using this forest inventory mapping to accurately measure re-growth and set their harvesting yields to ensure sustainability goals are met.

LiDAR can be used to find even very subtle features under heavy forest canopy.

Near Real-Time Change Detection – The quick turnaround time from flight acquisition to deliverable products (DEM, DSM, etc.) of areas covering thousands of square kilometers means that changes can be documented in near real time. We recently mapped a significant landslide in a popular hiking area, by comparing data acquired the previous summer for glacier mapping, to a post-slide dataset we flew in the days following the slide. Within hours of collection the total volume of the landslide was measured at 5.2 million cubic meters, with a maximum elevation loss of 161 meters.

The Future

We are commonly seeing return clients asking for mapping of areas we have flown in the past. This indicates to us that LiDAR data is beginning to gain recognition as a powerful tool for resource monitoring and ongoing change detection. As the technology grows, we expect that LiDAR and remote sensing will continue along this path from capturing a snapshot in time, to a much more continuous and ongoing record of change on a project site throughout time.

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