The remote sensing of the world

A memory from a founder: Michael Schaepman

I was interested in computer science long before I became a geographer. I studied computer science and physics, later I switched to geography. What fascinated me was and is quantitative geography which is based on collecting and analyzing large amounts of data – i.e., using computer science. There, at the Geographic Institute, I came across like-minded techies – and we founded Netcetera.

However, I was the only founder who never worked for Netcetera. Because I was given the opportunity in science early on to combine research and computer science in an ideal way. I was appointed Project Manager of the Airborne PRISM Experiment (APEX) at the Geographic Institute’s Remote Sensing Laboratories. APEX was an ambitious project of the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a new image spectrometer for collecting remote sensing data.

Netcetera became a technology partner in the project due to its expertise and the high demands placed on the project engineering. Back then, Netcetera was much more a software engineering company than today – the more complex the architecture, the better. A good example of this was software engineer Jason Brazile, who was responsible for computation at APEX. Jason was able to incorporate his complex algorithms for calculating APEX remote sensing data directly into his doctoral thesis at the University of Zurich.

On June 10, 2009, the Dornier Do228 took off on its maiden flight with the APEX spectrometer. That was a great moment, even if I wasn’t on board. My interest was and still is in the data and what it tells us about our world.

Michael Schaepman is a co-founder of Netcetera, Professor of Remote Sensing as well as Rector of the University of Zurich since August 2020.

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