Geo-ICT Training Center, The Netherlands
200 courses, 20 online supports,
60 moocs, 30 trainees
Door Anton Schutte, directeur Geo-ICT Training Center, Nederland
Apeldoorn, Juni 2020
Back when I was studying geodesy in Utrecht, I learned that surveyors work from the big picture down to the fine detail. First a foundation is laid, which is then densified more and more down to the small details. To me, this wasn’t at all difficult to grasp, even though in my student days I was no great scholar
Nicolaas Copernicus on the other hand, was a great scholar. He was the philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer who formulated the heliocentric model of the universe, placing the sun, rather than the earth, at the centre. The establishment back then, the Christian nature sector (the church), thought the earth was the centre of everything and that they were the centre of everything on earth. It follows, therefore, that they weren’t very pleased with this smart aleck’s ideas.
Het risico voor lief nemend, dat u, beste lezer van deze blog, wellicht ook niet blij bent met deze wijsneus wil ik toch samen met u eens proberen deze manier van ‘groot naar klein waarnemen’ toe te passen op onze geosector.
In den beginne was daar de geodesie en dat werd door de gewone mensen ook wel landmeetkunde genoemd. De taak van de wetenschap geodesie is het meten van 3 geometrische eigenschappen van dat hemelse lichaam waar wij samen met ongeveer 7 miljard mensen op wonen:
- de vorm van moeder aarde
- haar oriëntatie in de ruimte
- haar zwaartekrachtsveld
Wij, geodeten, vinden het sexy om op deze manier moeder aarde waar te nemen. Deze 3 eigenschappen zijn namelijk voortdurend aan veranderingen onderhevig en het is heel belangrijk dat wetenschappers dit blijven meten om te volgen hoe moeder aarde zich gedraagt en zich houdt in het heelal.
In nauw verband daarmee staan namelijk de veranderingen die op, om en in moeder aarde, plaats vinden.
De aardkorst is zo’n 40 km dik en bestaat uit tektonische platen die langs elkaar heen kunnen schuiven en tegen elkaar op kunnen botsen. Dit kan dan bijvoorbeeld van invloed zijn op de ligging van de continenten, de oceanen, ijsvlaktes en vulkanen.
Geodeten maken gebruik van zeer geavanceerde I
Accepting the risk that you, dear reader of this blog, may be equally displeased with this smart aleck, I still want to talk to you about applying this method of ‘observing from large to small’ to our geo sector.
In the beginning, there was the geodesy, also known as land surveying, among laymen. The objective of the science of geodesy, is to measure 3 geometric properties of that heavenly body that we, together with roughly 7 billion other people, live on:
- the shape of mother earth
- her orientation in space
- her gravity field
It is sexy to us, geodesists, to observe mother earth in this way. Because these 3 properties are constantly subject to change and it is very important that scientists continue to measure this to track the behaviour of mother earth and her place in the universe.
Because the changes occurring on, around, and inside mother earth are closely connected with this.
The earth’s crust is approximately 40 km thick and consists of tectonic plates that can slide over and alongside each other but can also bump into each other. Which may affect the positioning of the continents, the oceans, ice plains and volcanoes.
Geodesists make use of some very advanced ICT tools. The modern geodesists have a great deal of feeling and interest for these and actually feel a bit like ICT professionals. For that reason, they are also sometimes referred to as Geo-ICT’ers.
These Geo-ICT’ers can do great things using today’s ICT tools. Small changes, even over longer periods of time, in, around, and on the earth are being observed.
Practical applications of this are:
Predicting volcano eruptions, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, lasting droughts, the melting of the ice caps, the progression of oil leaks in the sea, forest fires, decay of soil fertility and biodiversity, and, last but not least, the change in sea level.
For those who don’t find this sexy, I would recommend that you read the above paragraphs, from In the beginning, once more, this time with a little more contemplation.
That will help bring it to life.
Apart from a historic colleague’s name, Copernicus is also the name of the earth observation programme of the European Union.
Through several satellites, the entire globe is continuously scanned and photographed. In addition, using sensors, 3D scanners, and robotic total stations, various in-situ measurements are taken, by land, by sea, and in the air
These petabytes of data are itching to be used by the GIS specialists, Geo-ICT’ers. and Geo data analysts in our fascinating geo sector.
There are five cloud platforms that offer centralised access to the data and information gathered by Copernicus, as well as to the tools for processing that data. These platforms are called DIAS: Data and Information Access Services. They are Creodias, Mundi, Onda, Sobloo, and Wekeo.
Using these platforms, Geo-ICT’ers will develop various new services, which will help them progress towards achieving the objectives of geodesy.
The expectation is that between now and about 10 years from now, around 8.3 billion euros will be spent on this ocean of unexplored big geodata and that it will generate at least 50 thousand jobs in Europe.
But, let’s get back down to earth and change into a smaller pair of shoes.
If I keep the scale of my thinking small and limited, I see the pur sang land-surveying companies. In the Netherlands, we have several incredibly good ones as well as many self-employed professionals.
We are particularly focused on accurate land surveying for construction and engineering purposes. Some added property deed measurements for the cadastre, work on the BLT (the Basic registration of Large-scale Topography) and tuning the BAS (Basic registration of Addresses and Structures) for local authorities are always welcome. They make it a little easier to earn our keep.
And don’t forget the 3D scanner and BIM. Yes, reducing and smoothening the costs of failures and fears in the construction sector.
We work with very advanced equipment. Unfortunately, nowadays, almost anyone can operate that equipment.
We don’t go off to gaze at the stars, we go to check our total stations. What beautiful colours. Too bad that pretty girl is blocking the view. Unfortunately, work must come first. Oh, yeah! National triangulation, distances in mm, angles in dmgr. If not, you’ll get settled.
We feel it’s a shame that land surveying isn’t deemed sexy anymore and that nobody is really interested in learning this trade. We’ve even heard that there aren’t even any land surveying courses available anymore. Is that true? Does the chairman of Geobusiness Nederland, mister Nijpels, know about this?
Let’s invent a new name for our profession. Let’s set up a think tank of people who’ve got time for something like that. Bring together a bunch of old mm-fanatic geodesists. It’ll be a great laugh. And before the BBQ we’ll organise a pole vaulting match in the polder with a huge Jalon for a vaulting pole. I’m sure we can borrow one from the museum. That’s how, geosamen, we’ve been making the geof*cking Hollandsche Cirkel round for centuries.
Land surveying is a niche market, our niche market. It isn’t that easy to become part of, and once you’ve been out (which almost everyone has been, because it really is that small) you won’t soon get back in.
Sometimes, we think we might be better off walking away from the geo sector. We, the true land surveyors, the last of the Mohicans, will just have to tender our services as support staff in the construction, infrastructure and water management sectors.
Still, we have our feet firmly planted on the earth and continue to do good work. We have made valuable contributions to the basic geo registrations, like the BAS and BLT. The responsible party is appointed by law. Everything is supplied to the national bodies periodically, and everyone can use it.
We’ve got that sorted out in the Netherlands. Through the use of Information Technology and Communication (ICT), we are only ever getting better at keeping these registers up to date and making them accessible to all other sectors.
We’re going to make these basic registrations 3 dimensional. In addition to all the measurements we take using sensors, drones, and 3D scanners, for which we also utilise the Internet of Things (IoT).
We won’t hesitate to make a 3D city-model for every city in the Netherlands. The construction sector will then be able to use this 3D model, which we will, of course, make BIM proof, to reconstruct a coastal city all the way over in in-land Drenthe if the sea decides to reclaim the original.
In addition, we perform very complex deformation measurements, in particular in Groningen. Measurements which, in a practical sense, may be absolutely instrumental.
So, don’t cross us off. We haven’t lost our spirit level.
Geo-ICT is a profession that integrates ICT in Geodesy. Our sector needs people who understand how to make optimal use of Geo-ICT to measure the shape, location, and positioning of objects. Historically, presently, and in the future.
That is geodesy’s local purpose, which you can ‘map’ onto its higher purpose is: what is the shape of the object Earth? What is its position in the universe? Where has she been and where is she going? What changes is her gravity field going through and, in connection with that, what changes are there in the climate and sea levels?
If you can’t respect the small things, you’re not worthy of the large!
The Dutch land surveyors, who were educated at the MTS, HTS, and TU Geodesy courses of yore, generally have a solid understanding of geometry and a high standard of quality and morality. We must continue to appreciate this and, perhaps, we should even honour these people as the founders of the current geo sector. But let’s not exaggerate. If we, as the introvert land-surveying minds, go around telling ourselves we are the entire geo sector, we are selling many others, but also and especially ourselves, short.
No, we’re better off calling it a running start. A kind of foundation that we can continue to build on. In ICT, these were the people who, in close alignment with the hardware, developed the first operating systems. That operating system layer has made it possible for much larger groups of people to start developing software.
This is a development that, even today, is ongoing. Nowadays, even the alpha students are being taught programming and how to perform (geo) data analyses.
The science of land surveying that is all began with, is getting smaller. For many people it feels like something that is coming to an end and is keeps getting smaller. No wonder that the young boys and girls of today don’t think it’s that sexy.
All the better that land surveying is a particularly important, albeit tiny aspect of the geo sector as a whole and that it makes a great place for young people to start off in, within that huge and growing geo sector.
Because, whether you’re collecting geo information from satellites out in space, or by plodding through ankle-deep mud, you’re part of overcoming the great challenges that we, as humanity, face:
- Adapting to climate change,
- Making the energy transition
- Developing smart cities with thousands of new homes
The geo sector is behind services that affect everyone and, given the contribution that we make to the big issues of our time, it is an unstoppable, enormous, irresistible growth market.
Big sexy geo business !
Hoofdstraat 20, 7311 KB, Apeldoorn
Hydrography, land surveying at sea, who’s in?
By Anton Schutte, director Geo-ICT Training Center, Nederland,
Apeldoorn, February 2020
Back when I was studying geodesy in Utrecht, I discovered that the profession of land surveying could be a very adventurous one. Many of my fellow students went abroad for internships, for example, doing surveys in places like Saudi Arabia.
Sometimes, quietly to myself, I can be quite judgemental about these youngsters. I find myself thinking: do they really expect it all to simply be handed to them? To be given whatever it is they decide they want?
That they don’t seem to realise that some things require blood sweat and tears to achieve. That, when faced with any, even the smallest, setbacks, they can just give up, and go soul searching in their little suitcase of burdens, while some empath holds their hand.
But then, when I look back to how I was when I was in my twenties, I have to adjust my views. Because, really, I was rather spoiled too, and often scared as well.
During my internship at engineering firm Oranjewoud (now part of Antea Group), for example, I once refused to join a team on a week-long trip to an oil rig in the North Sea to carry out hydrographic surveys. Even today, I carry that refusal with me in my geo-suitcase.
The reason was that it scared me. That I was afraid that I wouldn’t understand anything, and it would all end in failure.
No, I said to myself, then I would rather go home on the weekend, drink beer (and throw it around) at a Normaal concert with my friends and my girlfriend.
With my girlfriend I did overcome my fear, our ‘wedding boat’ set sail in 1986. We’re sailing the high seas together. And we’ve become a lot wiser since then.
Fear is often a sign that you need to take action. If you’re physically on that cliff edge, staring into the depths, fear is the signal that tells you to take action. Step away from the edge.
In our wealthy and free lives, psychological fear plays a far greater part. That is fear that is instilled by our own thoughts and 9 times out of 10 it is complete nonsense. But with this fear too, you need to take action. This fear is a sign that something is important to you. This fear is something you need to overcome, by pushing through it. So, step over that edge. And why not? You’re not really in any (physical) danger.
If I were younger, I would sail all over the world to do as many of those crucial surveys as I could. Over 70% of our planet consists of water. Climate change is currently causing a lot of shifts and changes. Think, for example, of how rapidly coast lines are changing.
The hydrography profession focuses on describing bodies of water and the ground underneath them. You could call it land surveying on the water.
The most important aspects of hydrography are measuring the depth, the composition of the water and the seafloor, the tides, the waves, and the currents. The surveys are often needed to allow ships to navigate safely, or to serve as the ‘eyes’ of dredgers and offshore construction projects. Below, I will provide some examples of land surveying on the water.
Collecting information in connection with gas and oil extraction
Before a refinery can start up, a platform must be built, and pipelines need to be laid to transport the oil or gas. Before that, the hydrographer needs to mark off the area and collect all required information.
This phase comprises a 2D seismic study. Then, a ‘pilot’ drill to the source is planned to verify seismic interpretations. For that pilot drill, a ‘site survey’ is carried out to obtain more detailed information about the seafloor. High-frequency Geophysics is used to determine whether there is any gas present on the surface. The presence of such gas poses a serious problem, because it could cause an explosion. Then, a 3D study takes place to obtain even more information about the oil/gas source.
Surveys during the construction of the platform
If it turns out that the field is suitable, another 3D seismic study is conducted, but now in great detail. The hydrographer marks out the drilling platform and carries out continuous surveys during the construction of the oil rig.
Construction of pipelines
A pipe layer, or pipe-laying ship, is a ship that is used for the construction of undersea pipelines. Most undersea pipelines are constructed by ships specially designed for the purpose. A common method is for the individual segments to be welded together one after the other on board. The ship moves forward, while the pipeline disappears into the water behind the ship.
Dredging coastal areas
To maintain the depth of waterways and the accessibility of ferry terminals, docks, and quays, dredging takes place in the Wadden Sea and some of the ferry terminals around the Wadden Sea. The dredge is then returned to a number of fixed distribution locations.
Nine million people in the Netherlands live in the coastal area. A large part of that area is below the current sea level. Roughly one third. The lowest point in the Netherlands, Zuidplaspolder in Zuid-Holland, is a full 6.76 m below AOD (Amsterdam Ordnance Datum). Far enough below that we can safely conclude that it is very important for the Netherlands to keep a close watch on the coastline.
Making nautical charts
A nautical chart is a map that contains as much information as possible that is important for safe navigation at sea and other bodies of water. In inland navigation, similar charts are used. Supplemented with Sailing Directions, Lists of Lights, and other publications, they help the navigator prepare for a safe voyage. Depending on the scale, the chart contains information about water depth, soil types, the coast line, areas that fall dry with the tide, the height of landmarks, cables and pipelines, buoyage and lighthouses, navigational hazards such as wrecks and shallow areas, sea currents, tides and tidal currents, magnetic directions, and harbour infrastructure.
Seafarers require information about waterways, the seafloor, and underwater hazards, such as shipwrecks. It is important that shipwrecks are mapped. They’re like time capsules. They tell us something about the time they were lost. There are very rare matters that you need to watch out for. That is why you need to know where they’re located, so that you don’t end up destroying them, for example when constructing wind farms or gas pipelines at sea. We do not know exactly how many shipwrecks there are in the North Sea and Wadden Sea.
Deep sea mining
Deep sea mining is a fairly new mining method, where minerals are mined from the seafloor. The mining sites are usually situated around large areas of manganese nodules, or near dormant or active hydrothermal vents. These vents contain valuable metals like silver, copper, cobalt, gold, magnesium, and zinc. Deep sea mining is not yet practiced on a large scale. But there are various companies that are working on studies into the feasibility of deep sea mining and the environmental damage that it might cause.
The leisure industry is undergoing rapid growth. This creates a lot of work for hydrographers in the marking, mapping, improving, deepening, and securing of marinas
In the construction of wind farms at sea, hydrographers are constantly working on determining the right position and to assist with pile-driving and the placement of markers and laying of land-bound cables.
How can I become a hydrographer?
Above, I’ve provided some examples of the work a hydrographer might do. The profession is a lot more diverse and everywhere in the world, fresh new hydrographers are needed. In the Netherlands, we offer a practical course to become a Hydrographer.
Our CAT B accredited course in Hydrography, which we organise in collaboration with Skilltrade is unique, and people from all over the world can come to the Netherlands to study it. The course is recognised by the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) and completion is rewarded with an accredited CAT B certificate. After the course, you’ll work on a ship and during practical training, you’ll need to perform several additional assignments to obtain the certificate.
You can complete the following two free MOOCs to determine whether you are right for the profession, meaning, whether you have adequate prerequisite knowledge of mathematics and physics.
- Mathematics for Hydrographers
- Physics for Hydrographers
And in turn, the following four MOOCs will help you decide whether this profession is right for you. These aren’t free, but if you complete them, you will be eligible for exemptions from some modules of the CAT B course:
- Introduction to Hydrography
- Geodesy for Hydrographers
- Bathymetry for Hydrographers
- GNSS for Hydrographers
The video below is also nice to watch.
Are you interested in becoming a hydrographer? Then I’m interested in helping you achieve that. Interested? Send your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org
Geo-ICT Training Center, Nederland,