From Noosa to the NSW border there are now powerful eyes in the sky mapping huge amounts of detail in a way that could spell the end of traditional surveys.
From Noosa to the NSW border there are now powerful eyes in the sky mapping huge amounts of detail in a way that could spell the end of traditional surveys.

The business being paid $1m to photograph state

They are the eyes in the sky over much of Queensland and have got a powerful new tool at their disposal.

Aerial mapping outfit Aerometrex snared a $1m contract earlier this year from the government to conduct a highly-detailed photographic survey over five enormous regions across the state.

No prizes for guessing that the 12,365sq km area encompassing Noosa to the NSW border and out west to Toowoomba is a key focus of the work.

The Surat Basin, Cairns, Innisfail and a number of remote areas are also under scrutiny as part of the effort, which is expected to wrap up by the end of the year.

Aerometrex managing director Mark Deuter
Aerometrex managing director Mark Deuter

Company boss Mark Deuter (illustrated) tells us that his firm's technology known as "LiDAR"-which stands for laser-based light detection and ranging-is revolutionising the way councils manage their green space and could make traditional land-based surveys a relic of the past.

LiDAR, which is mounted in the body of a specially-fitted out aircraft, emits laser pulses to ground level as it passes over a target survey area and these are reflected back to sensors on the plane.

The data is so accurate it can measure the exact location of trees, their height, the breadth and density of the canopies, the structure of branches and their height from the ground. The type and density of ground vegetation around the trees can also be determined.

"This LiDAR-derived tool is a breakthrough which takes managing our urban forests out of the 1950s foot patrols into a leading edge, data driven outcome," Deuter said.

"Critically, the data can be generated in 3D images and direct comparisons made between flight readings taken say a year ago, and today, so that loss, or growth, in tree numbers and canopy spread, is readily identifiable.''

Clearly there's a huge related benefit for bushfire control, as well.



Launched 40 years ago in Queensland, Aerometrex regrettably relocated to Adelaide in 2000.

But it still has a major presence in the Sunshine State, where it employs about 30 staff at its Buderim and Archerfield Airport offices.

Deuter has his roots here too, having grown up in outback Queensland.

The company, which has long been a fierce competitor with Nearmap, floated on the ASX in December after raising $25 million from investors.

They bought in at $1 and the price more than doubled in the first minute of trade, although it's settled back since then, last closing at $1.36.

Mark Deuter showing off his firm’s 3D mapping technology
Mark Deuter showing off his firm’s 3D mapping technology

Aerometrex is now valued at about $132 million but a recent run of profitable results has ended, with the company reporting a $266,000 full-year loss on Tuesday.

The red ink, in sharp contrast to the $2.57m net profit in 2019, came despite a near 25 per cent lift in revenue to $20m.

Dragging it down were a spike in costs, as well as one-off items such as the IPO and other capital raising expenses.

Yet Deuter is optimistic about the firm's outlook, including building up income streams from overseas.

He's opened an office in the US, where the company recently conducted 3D scans of Manhattan and Philadelphia. Work has been sourced in France and Germany too.

Deuter also aims to expand his client base, which includes mining companies, engineering firms and property developers, to include gaming companies and movie studios.



Spare a thought for Lance McCallum, the new Labor MP who replaced Jo-Ann Miller in the Ipswich-based seat of Bundamba at a March by-election.

In a recent online newsletter, McCallum posted a pic of himself at the opening of an employment and training centre with Oxley MP Milton Dick.

But he mangled the caption, erroneously identifying his colleague as Cameron Dick, the state treasurer. Whoops!

The error follows McCallum's preselection in May, which is understood to have been one of the catalysts for the CFMEU's fury with the Labor Party.

Originally published as The business being paid $1m to photograph huge parts of QLD