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At 43 years of age Alastair Jenkins thought it might be time to retire. After all he had been on quite a roll. In the previous fifteen years he had taken two companies public and had just sold one of them– Mosaic Mapping which had its roots in a garage in Hamilton, Ontario Canada to their largest customer. He was in the process of building a new home, he and his wife were having twins–life was good, but it quickly became apparent to Alastair that retirement was not going to work for him; at least not at 43.
Nine months later, in January of 2005 Alastair would buy (essentially "sight unseen") GeoDigital, a small Californiabased company that was providing digital imagery to the powerline industry. A trusted colleague had done a fair amount of due diligence on the company, but he had decided to pass. Alastair exchanged a few faxes with GeoDigital and decided to take a chance. Eight years later GeoDigital International is one of the largest providers of LiDAR-derived, geospatial solutions in North America.
Alastair Jenkins graduated from the Imperial College of London with an Honors degree in physics and modern optics in 1977. That same year he also became an associate of the Royal College of Science. His course of study would certainly prove to be the right choice as he spent his first 13 years working essentially as a rocket scientist for Spar Aerospace, Canada’s leading space contractor. During his tenure he worked in remote sensing building infrared reconnaissance systems for military purposes. He also worked on the robotic arm for the Space Shuttle.
One of the more challenging remote sensing projects that Alastair became involved with would be his first connection with LiDAR technology. It seems that it was possible to detect the presence of a submarine from the disturbance its propeller caused to the ocean surface, but they needed a sensor to create the surface models. Alastair would help Optech build one of their first LiDAR sensors.
In 1990 Alastair decided the time was right to join a commercial start up. Alastair mortgaged his house and together with the founder Mark Chamberlain accelerated the growth of Wescam. The company began by offering stabilized camera platforms to the film and television industry but quickly grew beyond this market to be a leader in the production of gyro-stabilized, EO-IR (electro-optical infrared) imaging systems. In 1995 Wescam went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange and in 2002 it was sold to L-3 Communications, a top ten worldwide defense contractor.
In late 1997 Alastair saw a new business opportunity developing. The technology to support moving map displays–mainly GPS and relatively fast laptops, had progressed to the point where it was now possible to offer this real time navigation system to the commercial market. (Editor’s Note: I was involved in this market at that time. Today it is taken for granted, but in the late 1990’s it was revolutionary to see your location in real time on a moving map on your laptop.)
Alastair joined Navitrak, offering a knee pad–mounted, moving map display as their first product. They also produced handheld GPS units for the military. At the same time he formed Mosaic Mapping. When the military needed to map 2,000 miles of highway from the ground (helicopters were too risky) in Afghanistan Mosaic Mapping developed one of the first mobile LiDAR mapping systems. Then, leveraging his knowledge of gyro-stabilized platforms, they began offering a unique utility corridor inspection service that included the use of a new digital remote sensing technology–LiDAR.
A 385Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE