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Rapid Imaging

In this photo of flooding in the Darlington area last summer, Rapid Imaging's software overlaid the yellow lines identifying roads on the property affected by the high waters. Rapid Imaging recently moved its headquarters from New Mexico to Mount Horeb. 

Rapid Imaging Software, a New Mexico technology company whose augmented reality software is used by the U.S. military, has relocated to the Madison area — without the usual logistic headaches of a cross-country move.

David Geisler, vice president of operations, a Mount Horeb resident who’s been working for the company remotely for 15 years, bought Rapid Imaging from its founder, Mike Abernathy, on Nov. 30, when Abernathy retired.

Geisler is now CEO and running the company here with one other employee, Zach Fiene, who now serves as vice president of operations. Three employees in Albuquerque are no longer with the company and Geisler is hiring in the Madison area.

“We’re looking to add another five to 10 people over the next 24 months,” he said.

Augmented reality is a process that enhances a live view of an object or location. For example, when a television network broadcasts a football game and superimposes a line on the playing field to show how far players have to move the ball to make a first down, that’s augmented reality.

In Rapid Imaging’s case, the software can help in times of natural disasters.

“With a camera-equipped drone or plane, as it looks around the landscape, we overlay information that you might see on Google Earth — the names of parks, golf courses” or other notable sites, Geisler said.

When areas of southwestern Wisconsin were flooded last summer, Geisler used the software to delineate locations on video taken by a drone. “You also saw lines and street names and places of interest laid over that video,” he said.

Construction companies have made use of Rapid Imaging’s software, as well — to track the progress of various projects and to make sure construction materials were not stolen. Geisler was one of the speakers at a technology panel in Madison last year that focused on drones.

Abernathy, a pioneer in augmented reality, founded Rapid Imaging in 1995. He created SmartCam3D, the company’s main software product, which has been used by NASA and by the Defense Department.

“The U.S. Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems program office has a long and successful history of using Rapid Imagery technology,” said Todd Bartley, a spokesman for the Army’s unmanned aircraft program office. He said both the Shadow and Gray Eagle drone programs, used for purposes such as surveillance and damage assessment, use Rapid Imagery software to augment the video they provide.

Around the U.S., the technology has been used largely to view damage from floods, hurricanes and tornadoes, Fiene said.

Rapid Imaging has five drones of its own, and the company partners with other members of the Wisconsin drone network. But Fiene said the company’s primary mission is creating software for use by clients.

Fiene said while the military is Rapid Imaging’s main customer at this point, the company is working on several commercial applications, expected to be released in 2018.

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