Looking Down on America
As satellite imagery and aerial photography have become more accessible, state and local governments are finding multiple uses for them in areas that include disaster...
As satellite imagery and aerial photography have become more accessible, state and local governments are finding multiple uses for them in areas that include disaster response, law enforcement, transportation and urban planning. In the last few years, a number of private companies, including Pictometry and Multivision USA, have made aerial photographs more technically advanced, affordable and easy-to-use. Using low-flying planes, these companies take aerial photos with 40-degree side angles, producing three-dimensional, oblique high-resolution images of neighborhoods, landmarks, roads, and complete municipalities. Emergency responders, local planners and inspectors use the photos and accompanying software to measure not only height, width and distances but also elevation and bearings. It helps firefighters, for example, measure the hose distance from water sources and hydrants to fires, and aids police in planning raids by plotting where they'll enter and exit a building. In 2005, Dakota County, Minn., formed a cost-sharing partnership with 11 cities to purchase aerial photos and software from Pictometry. Dakota County assessors use the photos to view properties and appraise them without leaving their desks nearly as often, saving them time and money. To see the software in action, visit Dakota County's Web site, where anyone can pull up a parcel of land by clicking on the map or entering a property's address and identification number.
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