Optech adds to string of innovations
By Lisa Monti
October 2014
...KILN, Miss. -- Remote sensing powerhouse Optech celebrated its 40th anniversary
in May, and in recognition of the milestone, company founder Dr. Allan Carswell
declared it was entering “a new era of continued innovation and development with
ever more exciting active and passive sensor solutions to meet real-world project
requirements.”
...He had reason to be so optimistic about the company, a leader in lidar (laser radar)
systems. Optech, with operations in Canada, New York, and the Kiln community in
South Mississippi just outside NASA’s Stennis Space Center, has had a remarkable
string of successes. It includes putting the first lidar on the surface of Mars as part of
NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander mission.
...Carswell, now chairman of the board, is recognized as a visionary for seeing the
potential of lasers in remote sensing at a time when lasers were only just coming into
their own. Since he founded Optech in 1974, the company has established a tradition
of developing cutting-edge technology for its international clients. And the South
Mississippi office is a key part of that innovation.
...Optech products include stand-alone and fully integrated lidar and camera systems
for airborne mapping, airborne lidar bathymetry, mobile mapping, terrestrial laser
scanning, mine cavity monitoring and industrial process control, as well as space-
proven sensors. They serve important roles in engineering, transportation, utilities,
defense, surveying, and environmental monitoring for large and small clients
worldwide.
...In this milestone anniversary year, a couple of Optech’s products have earned
major awards. The CZMIL HydroFusion software won the 2014 Geospatial Products
and Services Excellence Award for Technology Innovation presented by MAPPS, the
national association of private U.S. firms in the remote sensing, spatial data and
geographic information systems fields.
...In addition, the Optech CZMIL (Coastal Zone Mapping and Imaging Lidar) was
awarded a Geospatial World Technology Innovation Award at the Geospatial World
Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. CZMIL won for combining its tightly integrated lidar,
RGB and hyperspectral sensors with a cutting-edge data fusion workflow that
achieves unprecedented results in turbid waters and muddy seafloors, while also
penetrating 80 meters deep in clear water.
...Max Elbaz, president of Optech, Inc., accepted the award on behalf of the Optech
staff in the South Mississippi office who developed, produce and service CZMIL.
...That office opened in 2001 at Stennis International Airport to serve government
agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Navy at nearby
Stennis Space Center. Optech has long collaborated with the Joint Airborne Lidar
Bathymetry Technical Center of Expertise, whose mission is to develop airborne lidar
bathymetry to support the coastal mapping and charting needs of the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, and
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
...“We delivered the first CZMIL system in 2012 to the Army Corps and the Navy, and
since then we’ve produced and sold them internationally to the Japanese coast
guard and the U.S. government,” said Elbaz.
...CZMIL performs multiple tasks including classifying the characteristics of the
seafloor and the water column, which is helpful in developing nautical charts and
locating marine hazards that could damage ships.
...“We bring to the table the unique ability to do work in turbid waters,” Elbaz
explained. Turbidity, which is due to pollution or algae, normally limits the ability of
airborne lidar bathymetry to map the water bottom. ‘But we developed this software,
unique in the world,” he said, “and it’s opened up those areas.”
...In one pass over a target area, CZMIL collects three types of information: water-
penetrating lidar data, and camera and hyperspectral imagery. This information is all
processed and integrated via a single interface, HydroFusion.
...Elbaz pointed out the importance of CZMIL. “About 40 to 60 percent of the
population lives near the coast, and because of climate change hurricanes and
typhoons are becoming more common and severe. People will always be drawn to
the sea, so it’s crucial to understand the nature of these areas.”
...Optech has a “very talented and skilled staff” working in the U.S. and Canada,
Elbaz said, but the South Mississippi location is unique because it is a center of
excellence.
...“There are about 20 employees in Kiln and most have doctorates or master’s
degrees – all highly qualified people. Our office is very good for the Gulf region
because these are high-paying jobs,” he said. The work, shared with subcontractors,
consists of design, assembly, integration, test and calibration, and support as well as
further development.
...“It’s a unique center of excellence,” he said. “We have world-class expertise that
we've developed over 40 years. It’s not only based in Mississippi, it’s relevant to
those who live here on the Gulf Coast, as well as to the wider world.”

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