A University Mapping Consortium dedicated to putting the power of Fodar™ into your hands

UMapCo’s goal is to put the power of Fodar™ into the hands of both experts and non-experts alike, to maximize the number of people making accurate airborne maps of the earth’s surface so that they can detect changes to it. There are plenty of technologies out there that work almost as well as Fodar™, but they are prohibitively expensive for most budgets and require substantial expertise to utilize optimally.  Between the expense and complication, not enough maps are being made and major changes to our earth’s surface go unnoticed. We want to change that through crowdmapping — by making it affordable and easy, we can put the power of awesome map-making into the hands of anyone interested.

Fodar™ is the art and science of making the best photogrammetric maps possible using the latest developments in hardware, software and techniques. Developed by Dr. Matt Nolan at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2013 and with UAF’s assistance commercialized in 2014, Fodar™ is exclusively licensed to UMapCO for distribution. With such rapid growth in technology and reductions in cost, nearly anyone with a camera and some software can claim to make photogrammetric maps, so quality of the resulting map products varies widely. But anyone using a Fodar™ map can be assured of its quality because only UMapCo’s partners can claim to be using Fodar™ or have their data published on FodarEarth™.  UMapCo works closely with UAF and other Universities, blending commercial, research, and academic pursuits for everyone’s mutual benefit.

For example, to make a map of interest to you last year, you might have had to pay a commercial vendor $100,000. This year, you can make that same map yourself for as little as $1000 using Fodar™ hardware that UMapCo leases to you or a partner.  This reduction in cost not only makes it easier to make a single map, but also easier to make a time-series of such maps to detect change at the centimeter-level.  That is, whether you are interested in snow thickness, coastal erosion, infrastructure degradation, construction progress, disaster response, etc., it is now more affordable than ever to measure such changes.

Our strategy is to simplify the map-making process by centralizing the technical expertise and distributing the flying workload. UMapCo leases its partners complete Fodar™ hardware packages, does all of their flight planning, does all of their data processing, and delivers a final map product to them in one of several forms, including FodarEarth™.  All the operational partner has to do is provide a plane with a camera port and provide their own end-user clients, and within days they can start making maps of nearly-unbelievable accuracy and precision of nearly anything they like.  With all of the Fodar™ development, flight planning, data processing, and quality-control checks being centralized, operator responsibility becomes simply flying the plane safely, following the pre-planned flight lines, and turning on the equipment at the appropriate time.  It’s a one-person job in the air, requiring no more skills than any commercial pilot already has, and operators are free to set their own rates with end-users and pursue their own business or research models.

Our operational partners are thus the ones operating the aircraft and acquiring data, either for their own needs or as a service to end-users that just want to use Fodar™ maps.  End-users that do not want to be operational partners simply need to locate the nearest operational partner, or convince someone in their area to become one. For example, a mining company interested in daily maps of their open pit mine could be an operational partner, or a local pilot interested in starting a side-business could be an operational partner servicing that mine.  Or a geophysical consultant or existing mapping company can be an operational partner, combining Fodar™ with other methods or expertise to solve particular problems.  Or a government agency wants manage its land better or be ready for disaster relief by operating their own system and integrating with their GIS directly.

UMapCo leases a Fodar™ hardware package to an operational partner for one-year terms and then charges a monthly service contract for processing.  Rates and conditions are much like cell phones, with plans and costs based on amount of work expected, geographical territory, data copyrights, and related factors.  A single project could pay-back the entire annual lease fee, but in any case over the course of a year you should anticipate making 10x your investment.  It is in UMapCo’s best interest to ensure each operational partner succeeds, and thus limits competition between partners by licensing by geographical territories.  In addition to the ability to make awesome maps, only operational partners within the Fodar™ family are able to post their maps to FodarEarth™ and use the Fodar trademark to advance their mapping interests.  The Fodar™ hardware will fit into any aircraft with a camera port or pod.  UMapCo is committed to the success of its operational partners, and offers a wide variety of consulting services to support them.

Right now UMapCo does not offer a UAV Fodar™ package, but this is under development.

UMapCo service hubs are typically University partners that have the geophysical expertise necessary to plan missions and produce maps from the acquired data.  UMapCo emphasizes student labor with oversight from faculty with the appropriate expertise, thus helping to train the next generation of map-makers.  Unless special arrangements are made, maps made by a service hub are free for academic and research use, thus helping make such research more affordable to our University partners.  To become a service hub, they must start as an operational partner for at least a year to fully understand the airborne workflow.  Then they are trained in the flight planning and data processing workflows, at which point they can begin signing up new operational partners in their area.  A large percentage of the revenue from their operational partners comes back to them to both support the processing and help fund research projects and academic training.

UMapCo is just getting off the ground.  To learn more, contact us at

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