Continental Mapping: Small Business, Big Capabilities

Q&A with Andy Dougherty, chief executive officer


Q: How would you describe Continental Mapping’s role in the geospatial intelligence community?

We’ve been working with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) since it was still known as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. We’ve been an engineering, survey, and mapping firm for 20 years and have grown up in the GEOINT world. We started out bringing survey and planimetric mapping to the industry and then got into content management and feature extraction and attribution.

We have a significant workload in our defense intelligence sector, and we supplement that with work for the U.S. Air Force and Army as well as significant contract work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for survey, mapping, and LiDAR. We aren’t so much in the sensor game except for our mobile LiDAR scanning and mapping services.

Q What are your core offerings?

Feature extraction, content management, mapping, survey, GIS, and photogrammetry are the heart of what we do. We have a pretty sizeable group called GeoFoundry that is dedicated to creating tools to improve our mapping skills. In the last five years, we have developed more than 50 tools that are used by our quality control and quality assurance people as well as our planimetrics and photogrammetry programs. GeoFoundry has its own website where we sell those tools. We used to keep them internal, but in an increasingly open-source world, there’s no reason not to share these tools.

One area we’ve seen real promise in is information brokerage. Our tools automate the process of looking for errors—they capture statistically relevant mistakes by going after things you normally cannot automate. These capabilities minimize the amount of human labor necessary to implement a quality control effort. In the world of information brokerage, we see a role for those tools to rapidly map an area or quickly decide whether your data set is relevant. We create a score index for the data sets we review—what we refer to as “Data Fitness.”

Q: How has Continental Mapping grown since its founding in 1999?

We started as a small firm with two photogrammetrists who wanted to branch out on their own from a larger company. Since then, Continental has developed a robust defense and intelligence portfolio. We recently expanded to transportation and infrastructure in the last year to answer the need for autonomous vehicle mapping and asset management for the Department of Transportation at the federal and state levels.

In photogrammetry and the GEOINT world, the autonomous vehicle has the potential to launch a whole sector unto itself for mapping infrastructure so these vehicles can operate safely on our roads. There is a ton of effort in that—it’s probably our next largest growth area.

Q: What differentiates Continental Mapping from similar organizations?

Large business primes want small business contractors who are forthright and honest in their dealings and who deliver quality products on time and on schedule. We’ve built and maintained a reputation for delivering quality work the first time, on schedule and for a good price. That reputation and our “above and beyond” GEOINT products have kept us in the marketplace where, if you can’t deliver, you’ll quickly be removed from the contract or you won’t see return work. We’ve kept large businesses happy with our performance while still growing and picking up side contracts where we can.

Q: What emerging GEOINT trends is your company currently responding to?

We’ve been monitoring the continuing use of new sensors and GPU processing, as well as taking advantage of some artificial intelligence that’s been coming out of Silicon Valley. Sensors have matured dramatically in the last 10 years to where they have multiple uses for gathering desired information. We’ve continued to update our software processing capability to keep it fast, keep it clean, deliver quality products, and deliver to the customer the sensors and data sets they really need.

Featured image: Continental Mapping’s dense, high-accuracy LiDAR point cloud mapping for infrastructure supports asset inventory and engineering design. Photo credit: Continental Mapping



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