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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Penn Avenue Parking Garage, Scranton, PA – January 2017

Published: June 1, 2017

Northern Light Espresso Bar & Cafe, Scranton, PA – January 2017

Published: May 31, 2017

Philadelphia from across the Delaware – May 2017

Published: May 29, 2017

Attending the 2017 Pennsylvania sUAS Expo

Acronyms are all the rage these days and so it can be tough to keep them all straight. Don’t be ashamed if you have no idea what UAS stands for. I didn’t either.

UAS stands for Unmanned Aerial System. Like an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) an UAS involves more than simply a vehicle and usually also includes camera, or multiple cameras, various sensors and other instruments, etc. Why the need for this other acronym? I’m not really sure but I believe it is to denote that these systems are generally more complicated and nuanced than your typical hobby “drone”.

The “s” in sUAS stands for “surveyors”. I was wrong, it stands for “small”. Thanks Frank.

As I’ve said in the past on my blog… I don’t mind using the generic term “drone” (even when referring to non-autonomous flight vehicles) so I will for this post too. However, I’d like to make one addition my own personal use of this word on my blog. Now when I refer to a drone I may also be referring to a fixed-winged system rather than your typical quadcopter or propeller style.

With that housekeeping out of the way, let me tell you about this expo.

The 2017 Pennsylvania sUAS Expo was in State College, PA at the Penn State campus in the Penn Stater building and was run by the Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors. The building was excellent for this type of conference and I really wish we had a facility like it in Scranton.

I felt like I had a pretty good handle on many of the topics, services, and uses of UAS that would be covered at this expo. However, I found that my knowledge had a ton of gaps in it and was out-of-date. So the vendors and experts at the expo ended up filling in those gaps and bringing me up-to-date with what is possible in the industry, what challenges it still has, and also how the applications for this technology is still being explored.

I still feel like we’re in the infancy of how UAS will be used. We’ve all seen Amazon’s drone delivery videos. And land surveyors are already taking full advantage of these affordable and incredibly capable systems to bring down the cost, reduce the time, and enhance the practical applications of their work.

Here are a few things I learned.

  • The algorithms for stitching together multiple photos to create an accurate 3D spacial platform are getting incredibly good. Following best practices with on-site markers, good optics, and being comprehensive in your coverage of an area, a surveyor can get accuracy levels to be within centimeters.
  • That being said, there is still much room for improvement on the cloud services front. Most of the enterprise level services offered do not yet have a cloud component (though all of them said they were coming soon). This means for every 20 gigapixels of mission photos you’ll need an entire day to process on a typical GPU. And, most of the apps do not support multi-threading so they cannot span that across multiple GPUs on the same system. You can, however, process it on multiple machines paying for a license on each. So processing time could be greatly reduced using the cloud and likely the cost also.
  • Also disappointing was that these cloud services do not take advantage of any advanced machine learning or crowd-sourced mapping to help the client-based algorithms to get better at their edge detection, transparent surfaces, or water detection. When I brought this up it didn’t even seem to be on their roadmap. Which I found odd. These apps need to improve very quickly to stay competitive.
  • The general public is still under-educated as to the deliverables for these missions. What I mean is, it seems the surveyors typically have to show their clients how incredibly useful this data can be for them. An example given was a hospital with a brand new roof had no idea they had been struck by lightning. So public education on these services has much work to be done.
  • On the surface the toolset available to most surveyors seems complex and unaffordable. Currently it can cost a brand-new business nearly $20,000 just to get up and running. I believe we’ll see this cost plummet by nearly half and the capability of the software and services to increase exponentially in the next 5 years. So I believe the real opportunity to get involved in this is over the next 24 months.
  • The people and companies to best bring this new technology to the market are the ones that already serve the customers that use surveying on a regular basis. Most often these industries have rigid requirements, data security policies, and other specific things that – if a company already has these measures in place – can be a real competitive advantage to someone just walking off the street with a UAV under their arm.
  • While the hardware and software are getting better and better it still does not allow the pilots or data crunchers to get complacent in their process. The more serious someone takes each of these steps the better the data will be and the more valuable their services will be as well.

I enjoyed attending this expo and look forward to how I’ll use what I learned to help Condron Media to service these industries and the surveyors themselves.

Attending NEPA WordPress Meetup for March 2017

Last night was the NEPA WordPress Meetup for March 2017. It was a panel discussion regarding how agencies use WordPress with Jack Reager of Black Out Design (our gracious host, thanks Jack and team), Liam Dempsey and Lauren Pittenger of LBDesign in the Philadelphia-area, and your’s truly of Condron Media.

As these types of events typically do, the discussion meandered through many different topics including the reasons our agencies have decided to use WordPress as our platform for many of our projects, about how someone can get started using WordPress, about JavaScript and how it is the language that is currently eating the web, and even a bit about baking bread somehow.

One question that was posited by Phil Erb, our moderator for the evening, was what do the agencies or individuals get out of the WordPress community. Most of the answers were focused on what each individual gleans from WordPress-related events. If you’ve read my blog at all you know that I’m a strong advocate for attending events and that I think they have immense value. It was good to see all of the panelists agree on this point. I hope it spurs some in the audience to attend even more events and certainly more events out of the area and bring that energy and knowledge back to our nook in the mountains here in Pennsylvania.

It was a great meetup in a great space. Very glad to have been part of it.

Thanks to Phil and Stephanie for organizing the event, to Jack and his team for opening up their new space to us (they should be proud of the space they’ve created there, it is lovely), to Liam and Lauren for driving a few hours through fog and lastly to Liam for sharing his Duke’s pizza with me.

Attending February’s NEPA.js meet up

NEPA.js is quickly becoming my favorite tech-related event to attend.

On Monday night at the Scranton Enterprise Center a solid group of attendees listened and shared in Jason Washo’s presentation on whether or not to handwrite or generate JavaScript through transpiling. Jason is a big believer in transpiling JavaScript but he kept his presentation balanced by providing both the pros and cons of doing so. He also opened the discussion up to the group several times for feedback throughout his presentation. His presentation was very good, but the discussion was even better.

Afterwards topics began to fly regarding next month’s topic, future topic ideas, and how everyone really enjoys these meet ups. If you’ve been watching from your chair and thinking about attending – please do. You won’t regret it.

Attending the NEPA.js meetup

NEPA.js

On Tuesday I attended the first monthly NEPA.js meetup at the Scranton Enterprise Center. Mark Keith, a JavaScript developer who somewhat recently moved into the area, was the organizer and TecBridge – who organizes the NEPA Tech meetup group – helped to coordinate, host, organize and provide pizza for this brand-new group.

The common refrain in our area is that those of us who build software products, enjoy a good bit of nerdery, or want to reach out and socialize with people who know what a npm package is… are somehow alone. That simply isn’t true and the first NEPA.js meetup proved that. Twenty-five or so people made it out to this first meetup even with the snow. There were young and not-so-young, men, women, and even those that didn’t know what JavaScript was but knew it was important for them to understand it.

After some introductions Mark did a great job of giving an overview of what JavaScript the language was and how it can be used. He kept it high-level and, though I’m sure some didn’t understand everything he said, surely they left knowing more about what JavaScript is then when they walked in. We also had those in the room that have been developing with JavaScript for years and years – and even one Mozilla team member.

The group meets again next month and will continue to do so the second Tuesday of each month. The group also has a Slack channel so if it you want in just ping me on Twitter.

Attending the Philly Burbs WordPress meetup

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Do you know the visible signs of a strong community? If you’ve ever attended a Philly Burbs WordPress meetup then you definitely do.

Last night my new coworker Tucker Hottes and I drove the 2.5 hours to Pheonixville, PA for this month’s WordPress meetup in the Philly Burbs meetup group. What we saw during the evening was the clear, visible signs of a healthy, vibrant, and active community.

Those signs were:

  • Conversation – People were talking to one another from the jump. They greeted one another when a new person arrived. And even if they had already found their own seat, they got up and moved to have a conversation with someone else.
  • Inclusivity – No one. No one feels like an outsider at one of these meetups. Race, gender, or distance from the area (like us) doesn’t matter. Everyone feels very welcome.
  • Questions – Lots of questions and answers. And people really trying to help one another.
  • Lingering – After the event was over people stuck around, got more food, chatted more. In fact, if it wasn’t for the long ride home I would have stayed longer.

I’ve attended this meetup before as a presenter in West Chester. And I felt welcome then too and I could feel the strength of the community then as well. This is a well run group and I highly recommend attending one of their meetups if you can.

Oh, if you’re wondering why I’m willing to drive 2.5 hours just for a WordPress meetup. Read this.

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Lackawanna Lake panorama – October 2016

Published: December 7, 2016

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Along the path – October 2016

Published: December 5, 2016

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Off Penn, Downtown Scranton – December 2016

Published: December 2, 2016

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Sunset through pines, Lackawanna State Park – October 2016

Published: December 1, 2016

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Learning Commons, Marywood University, Scranton, PA – November 2016

Published: November 29, 2016

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Aerial, Lackawanna State Park – July 2016

Published: November 28, 2016

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The colors of fall, Lackawanna State Park – October 2016

Published: November 24, 2016

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Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA – November 2016

Published: November 22, 2016

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Lobby, TekRidge, Jessup, PA – November 2016

Published: November 16, 2016

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Piano man, SAGE Awards, Scranton, PA – November 2016

Published: November 15, 2016

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Up through pines, Promised Land State Park – September 2016

Published: November 14, 2016

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Lobby, Scranton Enterprise Center – November 2016

Published: November 13, 2016