Ahead of the Locate23 Conference in May, Infrastructure Magazine spoke with Bradley Slape, Surveyor-General of South Australia, to explore the current applications of geospatial data and technologies in the infrastructure sector, shared challenges and future direction, as well as why he thinks land applications should be prioritised over sea and space.

Bradley Slape has been in the role of Surveyor-General of South Australia, Land & Built Environment Planning and Land Use Services at the Department for Trade and Investment for just over 12 months, following an extensive career working in both the private and public sectors.

Mr Slape said he believes geospatial data and technologies underpin Australia’s infrastructure sector, making them an extremely important, if not critical, component of the industry. “Whether it’s design, set out or as-built data, it’s all geospatial.

Geospatial data is essential for machine guidance for construction, and engineering surveyors use the latest positioning technology to ensure machine guidance and automation is maximised on infrastructure projects,” Mr Slape said.

Mr Slape said he sees the analytical tools associated with geospatial data to be having the biggest impact in today’s world, compared to other applications or technologies. “Combining any type of data with geospatial data allows informed decision making and better business outcomes,” Mr Slape said.

“South Australia has a fully digital planning and design code that allows users to identify what they can and can’t do on a property at the click of a button, all underpinned by spatial data. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are also at the cutting edge of the geospatial industry.”

Debate at locate23

Mr Slape will be a keynote speaker at this year’s Locate23 Conference – Australia’s premier geospatial conference that provides a unique opportunity to learn about the latest trends and applications in geospatial technologies.

He will be a part of the panel discussion that explores this year’s theme of ‘Geospatial Evolutions | From Lands, to Seas, to Stars’, with his experience fitting perfectly in the representation of ‘land’ as he has had a strong focus on cadastral surveying.

In terms of which of these areas should be the geospatial industry’s priority, Mr Slape unsurprisingly believes it should be ‘lands’, coming from his work as a licensed land surveyor, but is keen to debate further at the event.

“Clearly, satellite positioning plays a major part in the land and sea geospatial industries and I’m looking forward to participating in the opening plenary panel session to discuss the connections that Enrico Palermo, Head of the Australian Space Agency, sees between lands, seas and stars,” he said.

Shared challenges and solutions

While these are three very distinct areas and applications, they also have the potential to share the same challenges and therefore be able to learn from each other. Mr Slape said one of the shared challenges he sees is a shortage of skilled workers and a lack of general awareness of the geospatial industry in the community.

“This is likely to be a major hurdle for filling the resource gap to sustain the infrastructure projects planned for Australia. Collectively creating awareness of the geospatial industry is paramount to attracting resources into the industry and sustaining a level of expertise,” Mr Slape said.

These challenges have been a priority for Mr Slape in his role as Surveyor-General of SA, but in a different way than he was initially expecting. Four months into the role it was announced that the existing surveying degree in SA would not be taking any more students and the course would teach out the current students.

Since the announcement, the Surveyors Board and Mr Slape have been focused on establishing a new surveying degree in SA. He said discussions with another local university have so far been extremely positive and it is looking promising that there will be a new surveying degree in SA from 2024.

“The termination of the degree set me back quite a bit as when I was appointed Surveyor-General I wanted to put my efforts into increasing student numbers in the existing course and promote surveying as a career,” Mr Slape said.

“I am now turning my attention to the promotion of the profession and creating an awareness of surveying to high school students so that the existing TAFE courses and new degree can attract the student numbers required to make them viable.”

In addition to promoting the industry and providing more opportunities to train professionals to help meet the huge demand for skills, Mr Slape also said he sees the future direction of Australia’s space and spatial industry to be a collaboration of these industries like we’ve not seen before.

“It’s inevitable that the industries will both evolve and converge over the coming years. As the Australian Space Industry advances, I think we will see applications between the space and spatial industries that will build on the existing earth observation connections.

“Geospatial data underpins earth observations, imagery is only meaningful when combined with other data and the geospatial industry provides ‘the other data’,” Mr Slape said.

Locate23 conference will run from 10 – 12 May at the Adelaide Convention Centre. For more information, and to register, please visit locateconference.com.

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