Cartomorphosis – A Four Generation Surveying Evolution

Cartomorphosis – A Four Generation Surveying Evolution

When I was just six years old, my grandfather would take me as a camera operator on his photogrammetric plane. In the early 80’s without FMS (flight management system) nor airborne GPS, aerial photography required special skills. The results could not be verified until the film was processed.  These experiences sparked my passion for mapping. Over the past 30 years, I have had the opportunity to see the evolution of aerial surveying technologies from analog to digital as well as the development of active sensors, such as lidar.

I followed in my father’s footsteps and studied Computing Systems Engineering. My University project (2001) was a WebGIS, during the pre-Google maps era over 56kbps line modems.

After graduating, I was involved in remote sensing using satellite imagery mapping the vegetation degradation index for Mexico’s 2 million square kilometers.

After a master’s degree and a seven year sabbatical in the telecom industry, I rejoined the family business, CartoData, under my father’s leadership. In 2012 we invested in our first airborne LiDAR system: a RIEGL VQ-480. As the sole providers of airborne LiDAR surveys in Mexico at that time, we worked on very innovative projects. We made our first archeological discoveries and precision flood maps for city planning purposes. 

The VQ-480 had a class 1 laser which required us to fly very slow and low with our Cessna-206. In 2013, we were awarded a project of LiDAR mapping of 1,700 km2 scattered in the Mexican jungle and mountains. We then upgraded our sensor to the state-of-the-art large area mapping system, the RIEGL LMS-Q780. We flew non-stop for 18 months over the tree-canopies all over Mexico to get data for climate change modeling within the REDD++ initiative.

A summary of the project may be found at TNC’s website:

Our LiDAR installation was paired with a PhaseOne 80mpx RGB camera which allowed us to simultaneously acquire imagery and LiDAR data. We continued to do infrastructure projects, roads, oil & gas pipes, and railroads.

In 2017, as part of the Bloomberg philanthropy initiative for smart cities, we were requested to do a point cloud for the City of Guadalajara for urban tree counting. Integrated with RIEGL’s   processing suite, we developed an algorithm to count trees based on LiDAR data and imagery. 

The project was very successful and became the first LiDAR open data set at a city level in Latin America which gave the municipality international exposure.

Data can be viewed at

The successful use of the data by the municipality prompted us to acquire oblique imagery and LiDAR simultaneously. Then CartoData’s R&D team came up with ObLiDAR, our oblique and LiDAR acquisition plus processing solution. We took our existing workflow with the RIEGL suite and combined it with our Oblix workflow. Since ObLiDAR’s development in 2018, CartoData has used it to survey 221 towns. The end results are further managed in our Web-GIS platform named eCarto. These surveys have proven very valuable for decision making and multidisciplinary analysis for land taxing, risk assessment, ecological preservation, and strategic planning to name a few. 

Having our ObLiDAR systema fully booked, in 2020 we invested in a RIEGL VQ-580 II paired with a 4-band 150mpx camera to do infrastructure and archeological mapping. This time we installed it on a gyro-stabilized mount.

We see a bright future in the LiDAR aerial survey market in our region. The data, combined with the right tools, and end-user training that CartoData provides, allow for better decision-making. 

For more information on CartoData CLICK HERE.

Editor’s Note:

Félix Audirac is the CEO of CartoData and is part of the fourth generation Audirac aerial survey dynasty. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer systems engineering from the Institute of Technology and Superior Studies of Monterrey (ITESM) and a master’s degree in Business Entrepreneurship and Technology from the University of Waterloo (UW). He also holds an Executive Management Diploma (AD2) from the IPADE Business School. He is a passionate innovator, technology investor and mentor looking to make the world a better place.


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