Maximize Your Mapping Solutions

by | Jun 12, 2012

Prepackaged planimetric imagery can work wonders for aging imagery archives and tight budgets.


By Kevin Bullock, product manager, DigitalGlobe (, Longmont, Colo.


Planimetric imagery is a great satellite imagery alternative or addition for government entities and commercial enterprises with needs that demand a closer look. Additionally, an organization's imagery data typically are acquired during the course of many years from different sources using different imaging systems, processing techniques and specifications.

Flying Microsoft's UltraCamG digital imaging technology (inset) on a Cessna Conquest aircraft, DigitalGlobe is acquiring 30-centimeter natural color (background, top) and 60-centimeter color infrared aerial orthomosaics.

Unfortunately, this process often results in inconsistencies, coverage gaps, and issues with positional accuracy and quality, all of which ultimately are likely to impede workflows and decisions. Imagery users desire complete coverage of high-quality, cloud-free imagery with high positional accuracy, along with the ability to share a single source dataset, which is critical to ensuring effective decision making and precise analysis.


Exploring a Planimetric Alternative

As a result of these requirements, the use of satellite imagery alternatives, such as planimetric imagery, has become increasingly popular among imagery users. Quality planimetric imagery employs a common sensor and platform at a uniform resolution with standard specifications, providing consistent local, regional and country coverage while easing integration and analysis.

Local communities have found myriad uses for planimetric imagery in recent years. For example, Jackson County, Ga., has been one of the fastest growing counties in the United States for the last decade. In 2007, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners formed a geographic information system (GIS) department to help track and manage growth as well as streamline county records and processes. Jackson County uses GIS extensively to inform 911 dispatchers, aid in city planning and appraise real property.


How a County Cuts Costs

At the heart of any successfulGISis the need for new and updated ortho-imagery. In 2009, Jackson County was able to fly imagery and light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data, but like most local governments, Jackson County hasn't had the funding to commission a new flight. The county continues to see negative growth in its tax digest, which is one of the largest sources of funding for local government. Despite adequate funding, tracking change in a high growth community is vital for essential government functions, such as rapid 911 and emergency medical services response. For example, 911 dispatchers and first responders must have accurate data on structure placement and road changes due to highway realignment.

Jackson County discovered an alternative at a fraction of the price of commissioning its own flights. The county purchased Precision Aerial imagery from DigitalGlobe, and within two weeks it was able to detect more than 1,100 changes to buildings and install the new imagery into its emergency response system.

Planimetric imagery has allowed Jackson County's staff to save at least $30,000 in flight costs and efficiently track important infrastructure changes.

Precision Aerial leverages Microsoft's UltraCamG digital imaging technology to provide comprehensive coverage with high quality and accuracy. The product saved Jackson County at least $30,000 in flight costs and has allowed the county to efficiently track important changes.

The imagery has been really great and affordable, says Jackson CountyGISManager Joel Logan. We have a slew of road changes. I don't know what we would do without it.

As further testament to the value and quality of the content being used in various applications, including parcel boundaries, location services, civil engineering, land management and urban planning, Precision Aerial recently received the Geospatial Excellence Award from the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors.

Widespread Coverage

Although Jackson County uses planimetric imagery products in a professional setting, customers may also monitor many world locations from the convenience of their office or home. DigitalGlobe currently archives a wall-to-wall collection of 30-centimeter natural color and 60-centimeter color infrared aerial orthomosaics covering the contiguous United States, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom; additionally, 15-centimeter natural color and 30-centimeter color infrared imagery of Germany are available.

A planimetric image shows Mont St. Michel, a rocky tidal island and commune in Normandy, France. Mont St. Michel and its bay are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

Such widespread coverage significantly improves overall efficiencies for governments and organizations by reducing or eliminating the need for regular on-site visits, plus it allows customers to access content within weeks of acquisition. From defense to commercial interests, this timeliness allows for rapid and informed decision making related to ground-based information.

Satellite imagery has been used for decades in myriad industries and applications, including defense and rescue operations, where quality and accuracy are vital. In some cases, however, planimetric imagery can offer premium coverage at unprecedented volume.              


April Issue 2024