News in 2023

"Howdy" -  FIG Working Week 2023 report

28 May - 1 June 2023, Orlando, Florida, USA

The national host from US National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) together with the local association Florida Surveying and Mapping Society (FSMS) were looking forward to welcoming all attendees from near and far to this Working Week that took place at the Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek/Waldorf Astoria Orlando. The conference centre was located right between and directly connected with the two hotels. Situated in the Disney World area, however not directly part of the Disney World since the land is owned by Hilton and not Disney.

It was the first time in over 20 years that the main FIG event was held in the entire Americas region, and it was a good opportunity to be in this region welcoming delegates from US and Canada as well as from South America and the Carribean area. To help the Latin American participants, the plenary sessions offered translation into Spanish, and there were special sessions in Spanish as well as a new initiative, establishing a FIG Regional Network in the Americas Region. Having the conference in the US did however come with some challenges... It turned out to be very difficult to get visa, especially from Africa and Asia. As a result the participation from Africa, and especially from Nigeria was limited compared to other FIG events. At the General Assembly and in the Opening Ceremony, FIG President Diane Dumashie was sad that it was so difficult for deletages to attend the Working Week and not being able to enter the US despite intense efforts from both the local organisers and FIG.

Pre events

The first activities started already on 26 May with a FIG Council meeting and at the same time as the last preparations were done to get ready for the Working Week. From 27 May 2023 there was a lively atmosphere at the Conference Centre.

At the RFIP Workshop

Werner Lienhardt, Multisensor Workshop

On Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 May three different pre-events took place. The technical seminar on Reference Frames in Practice was organised in cooperation with United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UN-OOSA), UN-GGIM sub committee on Geodesy and Education, Training and Capacity Building Working Group and IAG organised by Daniel R. Roman who is the current chair for the UN-GGIM Working Group on Education, Training and Capacity Building and former chair of FIG Commission 5 on Positioning and Measurement. A second pre event was a Scientific Workshop on Uncertainty and Quality of Multi-Sensor Systems, primarily organised by Prof. Volker Schwieger, also a former chair of FIG Commission 5 and the current chair of FIG Commission 6 on Engineering Surveys, Werner Lienhart.

Being in the Americas region APPAT -  the Pan American Association of Surveying and Topography Professionals held an extraordinary assembly on Saturday 27 May

The programme for the 1st Young Surveyors Americas Meeting was an exciting mixture between presentation and discussion sessions with prominent speakers such as Bryn Fosburgh Vice President of Trimble and Craig Hill from Leica speaking over Leveraging Technology to Move Beyond Boundaries, Brent Jones, Esri, giving an overview of GIS,  and Simon Ironside presenting the FIG Mapping the Plastics Working Group activities. FIG President Diane Dumashie came for a special talk with the attendees and all FIG Commission and Network Chairs who were having their own ACCO meeting during the day came by for a short presentation of their commissions. A Charity Bingo event was held which was a big success especially because for some participants it was a new experience. The evening offered both a game of Bowling a nice dinner. A Surveyor Sudoku competition co-saponsored by GeoMax and Turning Point kept the young surveyors active throughout the conference days.

Opening Ceremony and Welcome Reception

The Opening Ceremony was held after the first General Assembly session in the late afternoon of Sunday 28 May. The programme was competently led by Master of Ceremony Tim Burch, CEO of the main host of the event, NSPS. A video set all attendees in a real US atmosphere which together with a Native American Culture presentation with dancing and storytelling about the tribes and culture led no one in doubt where they were. After this festive and colourful element Richard Allen who is City of Orlando and Orange County Surveyor said a few welcome words to greet everyone to Orange County and to Orlando. Associate Director for the Geomatics programme at the University of Florida Bon A. Dewitt announced that their geomatics programme celebrated the 50th anniversary this year which was nice to celebrate with surveyors and geospatial experts from in total 86 countries. Finally, before the keynote speakers, John Hohol, Co-conference director pointed out that he was glad that the main FIG event was again on US soil after more than 20 years and that he hoped to see more surveyors from the US affiliated with FIG.

Being in the Disney World area it was exciting to learn more about “Project X” which was the name of the development of Disney World area when it was established between 1964 and 1971 when it opened to the public. Beverly Hart-Jones, daughter of the lead surveyor of “Project X” and 4th generation educated surveyor, gave a lively introduction to the time when the land was surveyed and developed by her father William C. “Bill” Hart. No-one in the family or around knew what “Project X” covered, being the area that Walt Disney saw from the air, fell in love with and immediately knew that this was the right spot for a second Disney area after Disney Land in California. The surveying was both dangerous, wet and difficult being a very large area and construction site in the wetlands, but the result is more than astonishing. Hopefully many attendees managed to find time to explore more of Disney World. Handouts of the presentation

This remarkable presentation was followed by a greeting by NSPS President Robert Akins, teaching all how to greet each other properly in “American” and the variations around the large country. Many different variations of “howdy’s” were hereafter heard throughout the conference…
FIG President Diane Dumashie was the second keynote speaker, elaborating over her work plan and visions for FIG for the coming four years. Her presentation ended with the FIG Fanfare marking the opening of the Working Week. Handouts of the presentation

Tim Burch invited all to the Welcome Reception that took place outside the conference centre at the “Signia Island” where it was possible to meet and greet and also to get yet another American experience. Gatorland had been invited with several animals such as an alligator, snake and spider, and it was possible for participants to learn more about the animals – and for the bravest to also hold one.



NSPS president  Bob Akins and Co-Conference Director John Hohol whose energitic and persevering efforts finally brought the FIG Working Week to the USA

Holding an alligator was popular during the Welcome Reception and not so scary with a skilled trainer from Gatorland closeby 


Special historic collection

NSPS had managed to invite Lisa and Les Van Horn who has the most impressive collection of historic surveying material. They exhibited in the main hallway and this was a special attration not only to surveyors of all ages but also for regular guests at the hotel who were astonished to see this magnificent collection. There were instruments, books, pictures, maps, markers, ... A real special feature at this Working Week, and most impressive was the collectors Lisa and Les tirelessly being at the exhibition and having a lot of talks with the many interested attendees throughout the days. Some nostalgic over instruments and material that they remember, some more astonished and fascinated. A very good learning experience.



Technical Programme

Plenary sessions

Each morning of the three conference days started with a plenary session with nothing else in parallel to set the scene of the day. FIG Council and the local organisers had decided that this Working Week should be an "in-person event" with focus on the physical attendance and the advantages of this such as networking and being together. However, due to the fact that she did not get visa to attend, the very first plenary speaker, Clarissa Augustinus, UNCCD, had to prepare a video presentation that was shown. Not the best start of the conference, but was soon forgotten by the splendid presentation on the Global land trends and future scenarios and the role of surveyors in protecting our planet. Clarissa is co-chairing the new FIG Task Force on Climate Compass. The other two speakers in this plenary session, Victoria Stanley, World Bank and Brent Jones, Esri were physically present and both made remarkable presentations under the headline of "Protecting our World" in which especially the relationship between climate change and sustainable development was on the agenda. "Humans are problem solvers... but there is more to do" said Brent Jones. The session ended with a round of good and tough questions from the audience which kept the speakers busy.

The plenary session on day two had "conquering new frontiers" as main topic. The first speaker Russel Romanella, Nasa, managed to put the earth into perspective. The second sepaker Bryn Fosburgh, Trimble talked among other things about the changing jobs with the deveopment of technology which however does not mean that the jobs are being unnecessary, but instead that a different set of skills are required. Mickey Ng Nok Hang talked about being a young surveyor today, and how to "unlock the X, Y and Z value". After an interesting Q&A session a new concept was introduced by Tim Burch, NSPS. He was challenged to give a 5-minute presentation based on the Ignite-presentation concept style (20 slides of each 15 seconds) talking about "Get Kids into Survey" of which he is a dynamic and committed ambassador.

  • Handouts of presentation by Russel Romanella
  • Handouts of presentation by Mickey Ng Nok Hang

The final plenary session on day three with the headline Tackling the Global Challenges had as first speaker Juliana Blackwell from NOAA. A special National Geodetic Survey's Day - NGS track was organised for the full Wednesday with this plenary session introducing this special track. US has worked on a modernised geospatial data system keeping in mind that data must be interoperationable, inclusive and accessible. On the two first conference days four special "Small Island Developing States" (SIDS) sessions were held. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face many distinct challenges on their ongoing path towards strong sustainable economic development and getting the most from their rich socio-cultural heritage and being in Florida it was obvious to bring togetgher representatives from the Carribean, from Pacific Islands and other states that are facing the same challenges. Simone Lloyd, Jamaica, talked in the plenary session about the land administration and land management role in tackling disaster management and sea level rise with a special focus on the sustainability of island states. Dustin Parkman, Bentley talked about Infrastructure Data Challenges - lots of data is available, however changing the complexity out of the data and get useful information is the challenge. "A map is like a poem" said Andrew Hurley, Leica in his presentation on"EGS" - Environmental, Social and Governance, assessing sustainability and ethical performances.

Technical sessions - and World Premiere

A lot of activities were going on during the three conference days, technical sessions, special sessions, partner sessions, meetings etc. There was a lively in the hallways and session rooms. A special and new feature was the "FIG Cinema" designed to serve as a unique and engaging space for conference attendees. Through the power of storytelling, this Cinema aimed to inspire and empower and offered a one-of-a-kind opportunity for conference attendees to sit back, relax and be inspired by the incredible work of their peers. Several session slots were dedicated to video presentations, a new and different way of presenting a paper, there was a special cinema slot showcasing the work plans of the 10 FIG Commisisons, longer films by our main sponsers etc. However most spectacular was the World Premier of the "Surveying Superstar Movie Mini-Marathon" created and conducted by John Brock. With the title Cinematic Superstar Surveying Spectacular!!! attendees could enjoy this amazing World Premiere compilation of over 50 movies, TV shows and TV commercials masterly webbed together by Surveying Movie Mogul John Brock, who has collected his eclectic mix of Hollywood style productions featuring all-things surveying. We do hope that we can repeat this movie in future FIG events.

Credits system

The local organisers had managed to ensure that attending Workshops, seminars, technical tours, and paper presentations during FIG Working Week 2023 would qualify for Continuing Education Units of Professional Development Hours (CEU/PDH) as authorized by the Florida Board of Professional Surveyors and Mappers (the Florida’s Surveying and Mapping licensing entity) through Florida Surveying and Mapping Society’s (FSMS) Florida Continuing Education provider status.

Sponsors and Exhibition

One thing is very clear - there would be no Working Week without the sponsors and exhibitors. It is therefore in place to send a very big thanks to all sponsors and exhibitors for their attendance and contributions to the Working Week.

The exhibition was opened by FIG President Diane Dumashie together with NSPS President Robert Akins and CEO Tim Burch right after the first plenary session. The exhibition included both a collection of pictures from the time when Dinesy World was built "Surveying Walt Disney World", a special University Row, the Connect+reflect lounge - a first of its kind FIG Working Week initiative being a safe space for conference attendees to seek individual support, share diverse stories and build the basis for a sustainable workforce. Informal and interactive sessions were hosted throughout the working week covering topics spanning mental health, podcasting, coaching, yoga and meditation, building your business, what is inclusion and building your brand. The FSMS stand included a "sand box" that opened up for creativity.

ESRI combined its sponsorship with a special session room dedicated to an "Esri Hands-On Learning Lab" in which attendees could come by and get a lesson on a variety of GIS and ArcGIS topics  learning tools with instructors.

Special GNSS/GPS/LIDAR/UAV demonstrations by exhibitors were held on Signature Island, a large 973m² (10,473 ft²) island with picturesque views of the resort’s waterways and golf course, with live demonstrations of the latest GPS/GNSS/UAV/LIDAR technology.


Special events

Memorial day

The Working Week took place over the Memorial Weekend and Memorial Day on Monday 29 May. This tradition should of course be marked. The Memorial Day is a celebration for those who gave their lives while in military service. A military honor guard stood ready on Signature Island, and the President of NSPS, Robert Akins held a touching speech in which he first of all informed about this special celebration for the international guests, and told his own story of what it was like to be far away from home at the front with no access to communication media that we know of today. At that time they waited 3-4 weeks for a letter to arrive. Thanks to NSPS for arranging this special happening.

Technical tours

Three different technical tours were offered and seen from the interest these tours could have been repeated several times. One technical tour visited the Aircraft Operations Center of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, which serves as the main base for NOAA's fleet of nine specialized environmental data-gathering aircrafts, including three "hurricane hunter" planes. The second went to the Southeastern Surveying and Mapping Coorporation, an independent employee-owned firm working with surveying and mapping, subsurface utility engineering and geographic information systems. The third tour went to the Orlando Wetlands Park - a man-made wetland designed to provide advanced treatment for reclaimed water from Orlando and other local cities.

Cornhole event and Golf Outing

Another very American element was a Cornhole event - also a first-timer for most international participants who had signed up for this. This event took place on Thursday 1 June after the General Assembly and closing. Pictures will tell better than words what this is about... A very joyful way of finalising the Working Week.

On Friday 2 June Golf enthusiasts had the opportunity to stay for a game of golf at the beautiful Signia Hilton golf court.

Conference dinner

Right after the last session slot on Wednesday 31 May, buses were waiting for guests who had signed up for the conference dinner to take them to "Mangos Tropical Cafe in Orlando where a true American experience awaited. During the following 4 hours the guests were enjoying a dinner and taken through a live show spanning from Brazilian Samba, Cuban Conga, 80s, 90s and today’s hits. The dinner was supporting FIG Foundation through the dinner tickets together with a special donation from Trimble .

General Assembly and closing

As part of the Working Week the FIG General Assembly is held on Sunday 28 May and Thursday 1 June including the business of FIG. This Working Week and General Assembly was the first of the current council which meant that all Working Plans showing the direction for the coming four years were presented. Member Assoications elected the destination for FIG Working Week 2027 to be held in Stavanger, Norway.

In her closing remarks, FIG President Diane Dumashie thanked all who had come to Orlando, Florida to make this Working Week come through. The days were packed with activities - sessions to learn from, contributions to FIG projects, business and activities, sessions co-hosted with UN organisations such as UN-Habitat/GLTN, UN-OOSA, UN-CCD and UN-GGIM, sessions with partners and sponsors.

Finally, and before the FIG Fanfare marked the closing of the Working Week, Diane Dumashie thanked NSPS, the host from the US, the local hosts from Florida and all who had been involved in the preparations of all the many both big and small things that brought together this Working Week. A special thanks to the NSPS staff competently led by Tim Burch: Trish, Sarah and Christina as well as the FSMS representatives, who ended up being so occupied that they did not even make it to the closing ceremony and to come to the stage.

At the very end the FIG flag was handed over by Tim Burch to the next host  epresented by Honourable Benito Owusu Bioh, Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources accompanied by Honourable Manu Adabor, Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Forestry together with the 68 delegates from Ghana to mark the upcoming Working Week in Accra, Ghana 19-24 May 2024.



A special thanks to all sponsors


Commission and Network Chairs at their annual meeting


Louise Friis-Hansen
July 2023