BC Hydro Awards Contract for Project Surveyors for Site C Clean Energy Project – UPDATED

FORT ST. JOHN – Underhill Geomatics Ltd. is pleased to announce it has been awarded a contract from BC Hydro for survey services for the Site C Clean Energy Project. The contract services include completing survey quality auditing, surveying and drafting services as required in the role of the owner’s surveyor to support site preparation and other construction activities. The initial contract is for a period of 5 months, with an option to extend.

Underhill Geomatics Ltd. is a 102 year old British Columbia and Yukon company with offices in Vancouver, Whitehorse, Kamloops and Merritt. Underhill is a full service professional land survey and geomatics engineering company with a long history of performing surveys and mapping projects for BC Hydro.

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Since the early 1950′s Underhill has completed over 1,000 projects for BC Hydro and its predecessors in the fields of surveying and mapping.

UPDATE – December 10th, 2015

WHITEHORSE, YT. The Honourable Darrell Pasloski, M.L.A., Premier of the Yukon, today called Underhill Geomatics Ltd. vice-president Carl Friesen to pass on his congratulations regarding the BC Hydro Site C Clean Energy Project survey contract award. He went on to say that Underhill will no doubt hone its skills on this project. He called from Vancouver, on route to Whitehorse, after participating in the Government of Canada’s mission to the United nations climate change conference (COP21) in Paris, France. According to Mr. Friesen, his Honour sounded quite positive regarding the outcome of that conference, indicating that a positive outcome will result from the effort of the many delegates in Paris.

In the News

CBCnews|North – Yukon’s Underhill Geomatics wins contract on B.C.’s Site C dam
CBC News: Northbeat – December 08, 2015 (Underhill Site C award at 17:37 in the broadcast)
Alaska Highway News – Site C Dam surveying contract awarded to Underhill Contracting
Energetic|city.ca – Underhill Geomatics Ltd. wins surveying contract for Site C project

The third International Conference on UAV’s in Geomatics wraps up in Toronto

September 2nd, 2015

With all the media attention devoted to UAV’s, it is easy to overlook that there are serious groups of researchers and developers from academia, government, and industry quietly working in the background striving to improve and expand the technology. The third international conference on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Geomatics (UAV-g 2015) was hosted by the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University from August 30th to September 2nd in Toronto. It brought together many of these experts from around the world.

The theme for the conference was “Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS): a disruptive technology for geomatics”. The disruptive nature of these technologies, again, has been covered quite extensively in the media. With regards to geomatics (surveying and mapping), UAV’s represent something of a revolution. They are new tools that have the potential to change entire industries and ways of doing things, in ways that we are only now starting to comprehend.

Underhill’s participation in the conference focused on the conference theme. A paper presented by Bill Mah, of Underhill’s, explains the development of a low cost UAV, from easily available and affordable parts, for the purpose of accurate aerial mapping. In decades past, the idea of building your own survey tools capable of autonomously measuring and mapping to centimetres was unheard of. The Internet, Maker Movement, Smart Phones, and other enabling technologies have contributed to making this disruption possible. It will be interesting to see what the future will bring to this field when the next UAV-g is held in Bonn, Germany in 2017.

UAV-g 2015 Facebook page

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Conference Publications (ISPRS):

Annals Volume II-1/W1
Archives Volume XL-1/W4

In the Media:
GIM International - Participants Positive about UAV-g 2015 International Conference

Partners in Success – Ground Breaking for New Homes – Tk’emlups te Secwepemc


With the support of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc (formerly the Kamloops Indian Band), a member of the Shuswap Nation, celebrates the ground breaking for four new family homes. The Department’s support included seed money so that the four Band families could apply for real mortgages with a bank in order to pay for the houses. This is quite the accomplishment given the complexities of the Indian Act. Congratulations to the families, and the Band! Underhill & Underhill, BC Land Surveyors, provided all the topographic, legal and house layout services for the project. Up to six more houses will be built later in the year in another part of the Reserve but within the same project.

Measuring for a Photographic Record at Woodward’s Atrium – UPDATED!

September 17th, 2015


Joel Nicholas Peterson provided an update on his recent photography showing at the Atrium at Woodward’s. Below is an excellent short documentary, by Nigel Berringer of Parallelogram Pictures, outlining Joel’s artistic process and his impetus for undertaking the project. Additionally, there are links below to a number of news stories about it all (CBC, Petapixel, and VANCITY bUZZ). Our original news story regarding the measurement of his potential World Record camera obscura film negative, that formed part of the exhibit, follows these updates.


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Before making way for condos, this Vancouver building became a giant camera – CBC ArtsThe World Of Leah Collins

Photographer Creates the World’s Largest Negative – PetapixelMichael Zhang

Blueprints for Observation: Vancouver artist turns building into camera (PHOTOS) – VANCITY bUZZ - Shawn O’Hara


Original Underhill Post:

July 30th, 2015

It is something to reflect on, in this era of “selfie sticks” and “photobombing”, where everyone with a cellphone also has a camera, that it has been less than 200 years since photographic images were first “captured” from reflected light. In fact, it was in 1816 that French inventor Nicéphore Niépce combined the camera obscura (pinhole camera), which had been known for millennia, with a photo sensitive paper. With it, he produced an impermanent image that disappeared quickly when brought out into the sunlight. Ten years later, in 1826, Niépce managed to make his images permanent. For a century and a half, the production of these images would be precious and expensive. It is only in the last few decades of the digital revolution that photographic images have become the commonplace disposable items they are now.

Currently showing at The Atrium at the old Woodward’s site (333 Abbott Street, in Vancouver), are images which harken back to the time of Niépce. Captured with a huge camera obscura, using a building itself as the body of the camera and an 1/8 inch hole in a wall as the pinhole, the resulting film negatives are massive. One in particular may be the largest (in surface area) single exposure film image ever made.

Joel Nicholas Peterson is the photographer. He contacted the BC Land Surveyors at Underhill to measure this negative for a submission to the Guinness Book of World Records. Measuring approximately 4 feet by 13 feet, the negative shows a view of Granville Island between buildings at Howe St. and Beach Ave. in the west end. Said Jonathan Dyke of Underhill’s, “That’s the biggest negative I’ve ever seen!”

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According to Joel, the exposure of the film image took 36 minutes. The exposure time was arrived at by trial and error. Quite a feat when you consider the focal length was 9 feet, a number more like a telescope than a camera. Given the numbers, Chris Cryderman of Underhill’s commented, “A shutter speed of 36 minutes and an aperture of f/864… These are not numbers I associate with photography. This is extreme photography.” Clearly, not something you could ever hope to capture at the end of a selfie stick!

The negatives and photos are scheduled to be on display for two weeks.

Underhill UAV Aerial Mapping Accuracy Confirmed – GEOMATICA

March 23rd, 2015

In a paper in the December 2014 on-line issue of GEOMATICA, Chris Cryderman, Bill Mah, and Aaron Shufletoski evaluate the accuracy of UAV aerial drone mapping and compare it to a more traditional surveying approach.

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In this special issue of the magazine, guest editors Costas Armenakis and Babak Ameri have brought together seven peer reviewed papers, and one professional paper, focused on Small Unmanned Vehicle Systems (sUVS) in Geomatics. In their introduction they highlight the rapid growth of the sUVS field with the 2014 market estimated at CAD$1.5 billion. They state:

“This disruptive technology of sUVS is creating new and innovative opportunities for the geomatics industry and has “democratized” photogrammetry.”

This theme of “disruptive technology” is echoed in  the comments of the Journal’s editor Izaak de Rijcke,

“…”drones”, UVS have gained notoriety in the public mind as a tool for compromising privacy and as a device that may deserve better controls by a Regulator. This of course is unfortunate. UVS that are operated for a specific purpose by a qualified and licensed individual hold tremendous opportunity for the economic means of qualitative geospatial acquisition on a small scale. In effect, drones do not compromise privacy; it is unethical operators who deserve sanction.”

GEOMATICA is the official quarterly publication of the Canadian Institute of Geomatics (CIG). It is the oldest surveying and mapping publication in Canada and was first published in 1922 as the Journal of the Dominion Land Surveyors’ Association.

The Underhill paper can be downloaded here: Evaluation of UAV Photogrammetric Accuracy for Mapping and Earthworks Computations

Carl Friesen selected by acclamation to the Board of Professional Surveyors Canada

February 28th, 2014
Ottawa, Ontario

Guy Craig, Chair, Professional Surveyors Canada, announced the selection by acclamation of Carl Friesen, to the Board, as Director representing the Association of Canada Land Surveyors. Carl is also a Past President of the Association.

The Partners of Underhill & Underhill and the staff of Underhill Geomatics Ltd. congratulate Carl Friesen, P.Eng., CLS, BCLS, FEC on his being selected to the Board of Directors. Congratulations Carl!

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Land surveyor hands over reins – Merritt Herald

July 1st, 2014
Merritt, BC

After some 30 years of service to the Community of Merritt and the Nicola Valley region of BC, Land Surveyor John Graham, CLS, BCLS, has decided to retire. Graham and Associates, BC and Canada Land Surveyors, will become Underhill & Underhill. Ivan Royan, CLS, BCLS, QLS senior partner of Underhill will continue providing Land Surveying services to the Community, and the Region. Of John, Ivan was quoted in the Merritt Herald as saying, “He was a dedicated, professional Land Surveyor”.

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Underhill & Underhill
Merritt, BC
(250) 378-5535

Underhill Partner Honored with Engineering Fellowship

June 13th, 2014
Whitehorse, YT

The Partners of Underhill & Underhill and the staff of Underhill Geomatics Ltd. congratulate Carl Friesen, P.Eng., CLS, BCLS, FEC on his being bestowed with the honour, “Fellow of Engineers Canada”, or FEC. He received this honour for his noteworthy service to the engineering profession. He becomes the 13th engineer in the Yukon, and the second engineer from Underhill Geomatics Ltd. to be so honoured (the first was Tim Koepke, P.Eng., CLS, BCLS, FEC). Congratulations Carl!

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In 2007, Engineers Canada created the Engineers Canada Fellowship to honour individuals who have given noteworthy service to the engineering profession. Being bestowed with this honour, means that these dedicated individuals have the privilege of using the designation of “Fellow of Engineers Canada” or FEC or of “Honorary Engineers Canada Fellow” or FEC (Hon.).

UAV Mapping Team Takes Flight

Seems UAV drones are all the buzz these days, and according to Chris Cryderman, President of Underhill Geomatics Ltd., they fill an important niche. Says Cryderman, “Before UAVs, mapping was done either via conventional aircraft with expensive aerial cameras and LiDAR, or by surveying on the ground. Each approach had its advantages. Aerial mapping covered very large areas with high accuracy. Surveying on the ground was better suited to smaller areas, but the accuracy was much higher. Small UAVs fall in between these two. Now, areas of several square kilometres can be mapped economically, and accurately, with an aerial drone.”

“UAVs are a game changer, and there are a couple of approaches you can take to get into the game”, says Bill Mah, Underhill’s chief drone pilot and engineer. According to Mah, “A number of systems are now available off-the-shelf. These turn-key solutions get you up and running with little intellectual investment, but at a much higher capital cost. There is also a large educational research and DIY hobbyist community that has pursued open source drone hardware and software development. This second approach is what we chose to build on. We found it was more economical, and provided greater flexibility. By developing the system ourselves, we really understand the issues, and how it all works.”

All of these small UAVs, and their payloads, are a compromise. Generally, the smaller the aircraft, the faster it must fly, and the smaller the payload must be. Underhill’s approach first defined an optimal payload (camera) that could do the work, and then an airframe was chosen that could easily carry it. They needed a two metre wingspan aircraft to fly the camera. This size of aircraft also had the advantage that it could fly and land quite slowly. The aircraft provided better flexibility in photo collection than its smaller “off-the-shelf” counterparts and provided greater control, and safety, in mission execution.

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Insurance providers will tell you that you are likely to suffer a total loss of your UAV in as few as six flights. This fact really impacts how much of an investment you feel comfortable losing, and how you amortize that cost. “The DIY approach means we can keep the cost down to a minimum, while ensuring that we have a payload that can produce the goods.” says Cryderman.

These UAV drones are actually flying robots. They have a computer autopilot that can be programmed to tell the drone where to fly. With the autopilot, the UAV can then fly the programmed mission autonomously. This does not negate the need for a pilot. On the contrary, Transport Canada regulations treat drones much like conventional aircraft – but with greater restrictions. Public safety is the prime concern. In the event of a problem, a pilot must be able to take over flying from the computer – in an instant. This means the drone must not only be within line-of-sight of the pilot at all times, but he must be able to assess its flight status, and chose an appropriate course of action, in any situation. The Underhill system was designed with this in mind. Redundant backup control systems are built in to help minimize the inherent risks.

Aeroquest Mapcon Inc. has been pursuing a parallel UAV program to Underhill but using an Octo-copter (an eight rotor aircraft) instead of a fixed-wing aircraft. With its vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capability, this UAV excels in smaller, more confined airspace, while still being usable for larger areas. The Mapcon and Underhill systems are complimentary, both optimized for their chosen missions. “With the different UAVs, we can select which is better suited to a particular situation,” states Andrew Dawson, General Manager of Aeroquest Mapcon. Aeroquest Mapcon also brings their considerable aerial survey and photogrammetric experience to the fray. “We are excited about the establishment of the UAV division within Aeroquest Mapcon. It opens up new markets for our aerial mapping service offerings.” says Dawson.

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Any mapping product produced from conventional digital aerial photography can be produced from drone photography. Orthophotos, digital elevation models, LiDAR-like point clouds, line mapping, multi-spectral imaging, and volume computations are all possible.

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The above orthophoto can be viewed overlaid in Google Earth. It is about 450 Mb which, while much smaller than the original (2Gb), is still pretty big. If you load it, you will notice a difference between our photography and Google’s imagery at the northwest corner. The Google imagery is out about 22 metres east-west. This can be confirmed by loading the Canada Lands Survey System KML file of the property boundaries in the area. Our orthophoto fits this data quite well.

The following Adobe Acrobat 3D pdf contains an interactive model of the above mapping project. If you are not familiar with viewing 3D pdfs, you must first place your cursor over the image and select “click to activate…”. Then, in the yellow pop-up menu bar, select “Options”, and “Trust this host one time only”. Finally, place your cursor over the image and select “click to activate…” again.

The model should now load. Once loaded you can:

1. Hold down the left button of your mouse to rotate the model,
2. Zoom in and out with the scroll wheel
3. Move the model by holding down both “Ctrl” and the left mouse button.

You can make the whole image area larger by  using “Ctrl +” in Windows.

This browser does not support PDFs.

You can download the file here(40Mb).

According to Mah, “The future is bright for drones. There is so much development activity going on…you really have to keep on top of it. Who knows where this will lead in the next few years? It can only get better, and we’ll be ready for whatever arises.”