Light detection and ranging, LIDAR, is an optical remote-sensing technology that employs light to measure the distance to, or other properties of, a target, often using pulses from a laser. LIDAR is now a key tool in geomatics, archaeology, geography, geology, geomorphology, seismology, forestry and atmospheric physics, as well as in airborne laser swath mapping (ALSM), laser altimetry and contour mapping.
“Before the Delice project, no laboratory in my country had access to the kind of equipment needed to support this modern technology,” says Delice coordinator Dr Doina Nicolae of the National Institute of R&D for Optoelectronics (INOE). “The necessary knowledge and expertise were simply not available at any of our institutions.”
Dr Nicolae says support delivered by DELICE went towards new equipment and upgrades, new training for staff and a programme aimed at strengthening collaboration at national, regional and European levels.
Key to the project’s success has been the involvement of the European Aerosol Research LIDAR Network (Earlinet), the Aerosol Robotic Network (Aeronet) and other expert groups in Europe. “These groups have been a big help,” says Dr Nicolae, “motivating us and urging us to become better and more involved on a scientific level.
“We have successfully demonstrated to the ‘old players’ in atmospheric research that they can count on state-of-the-art laboratories and well-trained staff in Eastern Europe. Our centre is now an active member of several large consortiums and networks.”
The Romanian LIDAR Centre (Rolice) is now a member of the International Network of Ground-based Microwave Radiometers, which brings together groups working in this area, and is providing transnational access to infrastructure set up under the ACTRIS project, an initiative aimed at integrating European ground-based stations equipped with advanced atmospheric probing instrumentation.
Rolice also leads the planning and recruitment board of the Marie Curie ITN project ITARS, and it represents Romania within the EG-Climet COST action. Finally, Dr Nicolae herself has been elected a member of the International Coordination-group on Laser Atmospheric Studies (ICLAS).
“DELICE provided funding for face-to-face meetings with potential partners,” says Dr Nicolae, “and Rolice took full advantage of the opportunity to showcase its capacities by organising several events at its facilities, drawing scientists from around Europe. We have also opened our doors to the diaspora, allowing researchers of Romanian origin to reconnect and give something back to the home country.”
All told, the DELICE project has transformed a small research centre in a young EU country into one of the most advanced on the entire continent. Dr Nicolae acknowledges that although Rolice is too new to have a history of ‘success stories’ behind it, she is optimistic that users from Romania and abroad will take advantage of the opportunity to collaborate with this top-level research centre.
“But this is not only about our centre,” she adds. "We have already started the transfer of expertise towards the newly set up Romanian LIDAR Network. This involves a long-term commitment to provide data on a national level and to contribute to the main European databases, so the DELICE project has deep implications for at least four other research centres in Romania.”
Moreover, it has created a framework to extend Rolice’s activities into other East-European countries such as Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia.
“Thanks to EU support,” says Dr Nicolae, “new projects have now been launched with partners both inside and outside of Romania, encompassing the building of new facilities and training of personnel in view of participating directly in the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).
“DELICE has indeed provided a needed boost in this part of Europe from many points of view. Rolice is now one the most advanced remote-sensing centres in Europe.”