Sheboygan firm takes to the air to study the Earth

By Dan Colton
for The Beacon

quantum spatial 1

THIS PIPER PA-31 NAVAJO AIRCRAFT is among the aerial survey’s fleet. The company’s Sheboygan location is used primarily for operations management and maintenance, according to employees. — Beacon photo by Dan Colton

For an aerial survey company, Quantum Spatial sure has a knack for flying under the radar.

The geospatial firm operates all over the country and even internationally, working with government and private industry to map out and provide data on a litany of services including disaster response, infrastructure planning and road mapping to name a few. Its main flight operations and maintenance branch operates out of a hangar at the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport.

At the Sheboygan location, Flight Acquisition Manager Ryan Boll said planes come in for checkups and data is pulled from the onboard computers and instruments.

“Our spot here is now primarily (aerial) data acquisition,” Boll said.

The company operates multiple aircraft equipped with LIDAR — which stands for light detection and ranging — technology. Basically, LIDAR uses light pulses to measure variable distances from the air. It’s one of the company’s main services in addition to large format imagery. 

At over $1 million per unit, Boll said the LIDAR cameras are expensive and are often outdated by new upgrades. That means dropping a lot of coin in order to remain competitive and abreast of new technology.

“We’re always staying on top of the technology game,” Boll said, adding that technological efficiency doubles every three to five years.

Boll said Sheboygan is a primary planning and operations outpost for the company. Projects are tracked and put together in Sheboygan, and pilots and sensor operators take those plans to skies across the country and beyond. 

According to Boll, Quantum Spatial launched 1,322 flights out of 170 airports during 2019.

Jon Wittman, vice president of data acquisition for Quantum Spatial, said the company is the largest full-service geospatial company in North America. Wittman said the company is able to handle nearly any type of aerial data acquisition that’s in demand today.

With their equipment, Quantum spatial is able to “map the world down to the cubic centimeter.” That’s helpful for companies and industries ranging from roofing to solar-panel installations to TruGreen fertilizers.

“From something as simple as measuring the cubic feet of a coal pile … all the way up to analytics” of earth’s physical features, Wittman said. “If you’ve got a problem, tell me what it is and I’ll solve it for you.”

About 70 percent of Quantum Spatial’s work is commissioned through numerous government agencies. One of the most important jobs, according to Wittman, is working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to study the Rocky Mountains’ snowpack level.

“That’s really critical to folks who live in California that don’t have water,” Wittman said.

And while many locals aren’t aware of Quantum Spatial’s work, the company has been featured in national media including the History Channel and the Wall Street Journal.

“And nobody knows about us (in the Sheboygan area),” Wittman said. “That’s ok, though.”


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