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With more and better location-specific data than ever before coming from sensors ranging from satellites to smartphones and drones, big data is changing the way the world does business. Geospatial analytics harness the power of big data for real-world problem-solving, in areas ranging from precision agriculture to public health.
What are geospatial analytics?
Geospatial analytics are methods and tools for discovering and communicating meaningful patterns and information in location-based data. The field of geospatial analytics grew from new fusions between geography and data science and continues to gain momentum through the expansion of drone technologies, improvements in remote sensing from space, and the development of new computer models and visualization methods that offer increasingly interactive and intuitive ways to explore vast amounts of data.
“Geospatial analytics can deepen our understanding of almost any problem – and unearth new solutions,” says Ross Meentemeyer, director of the Center for Geospatial Analytics at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the center, researchers have used geospatial analytics to address challenges such as controlling the spread of plant pathogens, managing trade-offs in land use change and evaluating water savings from different crop combinations. The latest initiative at the center leverages artificial intelligence and geospatial image analysis to preemptively identify agricultural areas and crops that will be affected by flooding or droughts.
While research programs push the frontiers of merging location-based data with problem-solving, continuing education and professional training programs are expanding to meet the demand for skilled workers who can make the most of geospatial data in both public and private sectors. Skill sets for managing geographic information systems (GIS), unmanned aerial systems (UAS, also known as drones), and mobile applications are increasingly valuable to empower individuals and companies in the collection, analysis, and use of their own geospatial data. These data can help economize the use of valuable resources, increase agricultural yields, and support decision-making to arrive at optimal solutions to industry challenges.
At the Center for Geospatial Analytics, faculty spanning eight of NC State University’s colleges keep students and professionals at the cutting edge of emerging technology and analysis, mentoring groups of learners with many backgrounds and interests. “This is an exciting time for the geospatial data sciences,” Meentemeyer says. “Our academic programs prepare the next generation of interdisciplinary thinkers and scholars to tackle geospatial problems.”
What training opportunities are available for working professionals?
Educational opportunities abound for both seasoned professionals and those just getting started in the field. NC State is the first university to offer a doctorate in geospatial analytics. The Center for Geospatial Analytics also offers short courses, workshops and online classes, and degree programs perfect for working individuals interested in acquainting themselves with geospatial analytics or gaining advanced credentials to accelerate their careers.
Have a drone or plan to purchase one? Have drone data but aren’t sure how to use them? Learn to how to buy, fly, and use a drone.
The Center for Geospatial Analytics’ UAS Operations and Analytics Workshops provide hands-on training for drone flight operations and data processing. Offered each fall and spring, the three-day workshop covers the essentials of buying, flying, and efficiently using a drone for data collection. Attendees gain skills ranging from UAS operation basics to advanced imagery processing. The registration fee covers personalized instruction from experts at NC State and lunch for three days on campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. Sample data, software, and workstations are provided. Participants are also welcome to bring their own laptop and data. Learn more by visiting geospatial.ncsu.edu/uas-workshop.
Looking to enter the world of geospatial data analysis or ramp up your skills in GIS?
Learn anywhere with online education programs that offer flexible learning opportunities in geospatial sciences and technology. The Center for Geospatial Analytics’ online Graduate Certificate in GIS provides students with a recognized professional credential and a quick start into the field. The program is designed for people who wish to establish themselves in GIS practice and build essential skills, without committing to a full graduate program. For those seeking more, the pioneering Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology program affords students an exceptional opportunity to develop advanced knowledge and abilities as well as partner directly with companies and agencies in hands-on service-learning projects. For more information about online learning at the Center for Geospatial Analytics, visit online.geospatial.ncsu.edu.
As the field of geospatial analytics continues to grow, thought leaders and practitioners in the field increasingly collaborate to leverage big data for real-world applications. At the Center for Geospatial Analytics, researchers and students work alongside top scientists, policy experts and leaders in industry to apply geospatial analytics to a host of issues. Core to the center’s mission is advancing innovative, data-driven solutions to grand societal challenges and supporting stakeholders the world over to tackle complex problems. Discover more about the field of geospatial analytics and how you may make a connection with top geospatial researchers and educators by visiting geospatial.ncsu.edu.
By Megan Skrip, North Carolina State University Center for Geospatial Analytics, Science Communicator
Caption for top photo: Geospatial analytics harness the power of big geospatial data to address a host of real-world issues, from precision agriculture to public health.