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3 Ways Organizations Can Use Aerial Photography

Oct 2022

With advanced technology, aerial maps are now multi-dimensional hubs of digital reality—instantly transporting the viewer to wherever they want to be.

Oct 2022

Maps have always been the primary source of geographical truth. At their heart, they guide travelers from point A to point B—whether that be a cargo ship traveling across the Atlantic Ocean or a family taking a road trip across the United States.
But with significant advances in aerial imaging and location intelligence technology, mapping has taken on a new definition. Today, maps not only serve as guides but can also be leveraged as near real-time reflections of change.With advanced technology, maps are now multi-dimensional hubs of constantly updated information—instantly transporting the viewer to wherever they want to be or go. And with that transformation, this article will explore some emerging ways in which this technology can be used to accurately measure—and create—meaningful change.

The Evolution of Mapping Capabilities

Aerial imaging technology has greatly evolved. While it began by offering a vertical, top-down view of the world, today, companies like my own, Nearmap, offer high-resolution, detailed imagery captured through regular surveys and supplemented with high-precision location intelligence technology.Aerial photography has developed into such advanced solutions as artificial intelligence offerings, oblique as opposed to vertical capabilities and different forms of 3-D imagery. All of these can be viewed using our own technology or exported for use in other tools and platforms.
AI-powered images can help users overlay designed or in-progress projects over existing imagery, allowing a view of how changes will affect existing structures.
Users can also reference annotated and georeferenced maps to conduct detailed measurements such as building height. Meanwhile, AI-powered image processing can evaluate existing environment details such as pavement conditions, roadway markings, sidewalks and a variety of other property characteristics.Here are three areas in which advanced mapping technologies present great opportunities for innovation and development.

1. Tracking Increases And Decreases In Vegetation

Foliage and vegetation differ across the U.S. Some areas have an abundance, some have less than others—and many don’t even know how to properly evaluate their existing environment.
Maps created by aerial imagery—and bolstered by location intelligence technology—can be utilized to focus upon and evaluate specific landscapes.There’s already the basic high-definition, top-down perspective that can be gleaned. But additional insights derived from AI technology can lend even greater clarity to insights regarding vegetation levels and characteristics. Those insights can be leveraged to make decisions about areas that may need to be reforested, replanted or cut back for any particular project. And the applications are plentiful.
Consider utilities and telecommunications companies looking to maintain or build upon infrastructure. With high-powered maps, these parties can determine whether the vegetation in the surrounding area will interfere with mission-critical assets—or determine whether the unfettered growth of vegetation might affect people and economies in the event of outages or natural disasters.Government and public works employees can use maps to evaluate whether a city park might gain or lose shade or coverage due to a reduction in surrounding foliage. Users can even export vegetation layers to determine total square footage for landscaping.

2. Measuring Water Impact

Some areas of the country are heavily impacted by water on a daily basis as those bodies continue to change—growing and receding over time. One of the results of all this change includes erosion. Not only is there shoreline-based erosion to contend with, but also other forms of erosion which occur around inland lakes, rivers and ponds. Advanced aerial photography is able to consistently capture large areas, allowing users to analyze differences between one capture and the next.Organizations can pinpoint areas where erosion has eaten away at a coastal highway road, necessitating rebuilding, or areas in which bodies of water have receded over time, impacting the surrounding area.
Digital elevation is able to capture the height and elevation of the landscape as well as surrounding buildings and structures. This can allow for the creation of models that simulate periods of heavy rain in order to analyze water runoff, erosion and the impact of flooding on roadways and cities.
Through these models, organizations can determine how best to build resources that can protect individuals against such dangerous scenarios—including drainage areas, proper roads, safety measures, exits and interchanges.

3. Assessing And Implementing Urban Development

Perhaps most importantly, modern mapping technology can display large-scale changes over long periods of time. The United States has continually urbanized, with roughly 80% of the country’s total population living in cities and urban areas in 2020.
All of that urbanization necessitates infrastructure development, and through aerial imaging and location intelligence technology, users can better determine which types of changes are needed.
3-D tools provide the ability to visualize a landscape with different vantage points, which can help developers decide when and where to build. Imagery analysis can demonstrate projected progress by utilizing year-over-year change.In a rapidly growing city, transportation officials and companies can overlay data to determine where traffic accidents are occurring. Accident analysis often reveals specific areas in which incidence is higher than normal based on drivers that, for example, might rapidly shift lanes in order to get over to an exit and avoid paying an upcoming toll.
Or consider an area where vehicles often collide due to improperly marked signage or degraded pavement or areas where pedestrians might be at risk due to a lack of lighting.
Through historical comparison, accurate imagery and high-powered image processing tools, officials can determine where street irregularities exist or are developing—and address them to better serve the residents of that area.

Emerging Applications In Advanced Aerial Photography

With the combination of detailed, clear and precise imagery and top-of-the-line location intelligence technology, users can use modern maps to create real and impactful change.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.
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