Hexagon Geospatial Technology Measures the Tallest Mountain in New Zealand

Otago University Students and Faculty

The National School of Surveying, University of Otago implemented Hexagon Geospatial technologies provided by Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure in their quest to measure the summit of Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The university turned to Hexagon Geospatial’s ERDAS IMAGINE and IMAGINE Photogrammetry (formerly LPS) to help measure the height of Mount Cook, also called Aoraki, following a large rock avalanche that changed the peak’s topography and height in 1991. For many years, the university has benefited from Hexagon Geospatial’s education licenses through Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure, and chose these technologies for the project due to their image processing and photogrammetric capabilities, as well as integrated workflows.

“ERDAS IMAGINE is the cornerstone of the project. It started from there,” said Pascal Sirguey, senior lecturer at National School of Surveying, University of Otago and project leader. “Using the photogrammetric capability, we were led to look more closely at what the model was telling us. The software gave us the right answer in the end.”

Following the avalanche, a resurvey found the mountain to be 3,754 meters high - down from the surveying estimate of 3,764 meters in 1881. The university undertook the unique challenge of validating the new elevation. Photogrammetry and remote sensing were the only viable methods for measuring the summit as it is considered sacred by the Maori tribe of Ngāi Tahu and standing on it is prohibited.

Using Hexagon Geospatial’s software, along with Global Navigation Satellite System receivers, the university determined the actual height of Mount Cook is 3,724 meters. For the university’s remarkable efforts, Sirguey received the top award from the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors in 2014 for teaching and education and the New Zealand Spatial Excellence Award 2014 in the Education and Professional Development category.

The University of Otago is the oldest university in New Zealand, founded in 1869 by an ordinance of the Otago Provincial Council. Its School of Surveying offers the only academic qualification leading to professional recognition as a professional land surveyor in New Zealand, following a period of post-graduation training and examination by the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors. The courses offer a broad range of disciplines - surveying, land planning and development, survey measurement and Geographic Information Systems - that equip graduates for a professional career.

Provided through Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure, Hexagon Geospatial’s education program provides the university with a complete geospatial software portfolio that offers support and tools for academic research projects and teaching.


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