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Using aerial photography to highlight a property's benefits

publication date: Mar 3, 2008
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author/source: Chris Moore & Kim Wall
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aerial photoOblique aerial imagery is not a new phenomenon, and has been a significant part of the history of Blom Aerofilms in the last ninety years. Vertical aerial imagery has now become a product that people use everyday without knowing the background about how this has occurred. Traditionally, vertical aerial photography was used for large scale mapping, using expensive cameras and complicated hi-precision equipment. The digital era has changed this, and in the last 10 years providers are now plentiful and coverage extensive. 

The issue with oblique aerial photography is that the images were seen as being a pretty picture and a source of valuable information, but they could not be seen in their real location. Capture of these images was also seen as expensive. The technology that enabled vertical imagery to become a “day to day” tool has now been applied to oblique aerial imagery. Pictometry image libraries and technology have changed this. Using five digital cameras, large geographic areas can be captured relatively quickly and the location of each image and every pixel making up the image is known, an advantage over previous acquisition methods. 

Using advanced mathematical formulas, the user is able to begin to interrogate the images to measure distances, heights, areas and bearings. As the imagery is also digital it can be stored, served and manipulated in various ways.

Programme 
Once the partnership between Blom and Pictometry International was established in 2005, Blom Aerofilms, the UK based subsidiary of the group, embarked upon a programme of acquisition that in little more than two years would see coverage of nine hundred urban centres across Europe, making it the largest project of its kind in Europe. 

Coverage:
Number of towns and cities: 9000 
Sq kms: 94 000 
Number of Images: 5.4 million 
Image resolution: 15cm 
Number of aircraft: 12 
Investment: US$50million 
Amount of data: 50TB 

How were these defined? Quite simply, take every town and city with a population of more than fifty thousand inhabitants. In Great Britain, this equates to coverage of one hundred and forty urban centres, which represents over twenty thousand square kilometres and sixty per cent of the population (38 million). The introduction to the industry of Microsoft and Google, with their respective Virtual Earth and Google Earth products, has seen geo-spatial data (mapping, aerial imagery and attribute data) impact upon more and more peoples working and home lives, with a greater appreciation amongst the non-professional user. 

Couple the increasing number of users with the growing numbers of providers, and the necessity for more up to date information, instant delivery and lower costs becomes a prerequisite. The oblique imagery is a unique product and Blom Aerofilms commitment to renew each and every target on a biannual basis becomes an increasingly attractive offer.

Traditional Users 
Many of our current customers are those we first met five or more years ago when ortho-rectified vertical imagery first hit their desktops. Initially providing standalone software for users, the company realised quickly that clients were demanding more. The ability to integrate the imagery with their existing geo-spatial data was a major requirement. Organisations have invested in major software packages, both in financial and staff training terms, which meant Blom Aerofilms had to develop a series of “plug-ins” that meant the data could be viewed in their chosen software package. The plug-ins are supplied as part of the image libraries. 

Consider such users within Local Authorities or emergency services where applications utilising Pictometry imagery have supported planning for events or development, management of assets or disaster, and assessment for environmental impact, risk and tax. The most common cost benefit reported is reduced necessity for site visits. 

As we enter our fourth season of image acquisition, targets are being dictated by a number of influences: customer commissioned sites, our promise to update every two years, and our ventures into Eastern Europe. 2008 will also see the introduction of higher resolution cameras further increasing the potential of information to be gleaned. 

And those other users…. 
Perhaps we were naïve, or more content to work within the markets, or industries, we were familiar, but Pictometry has uncovered a plethora of new users. Directory services such as ENIRO in Norway quickly saw the potential to enhance their existing web-based products by adding an oblique image component. 

Within five months of beginning development based solely on Oslo, every urban centre of Norway is available, and extending into Finland and Sweden. 

Property 
Excitingly we now entering the property market, looking to provide estate agents whether in private or commercial sales, lettings or development, the potential to view sites over the internet using our professional managed service. The ability to take measurements will exist just as in the desktop applications; perhaps dimensions of the property, or maybe the distance to the nearest local amenities. The service will also be extended to allow download packages of images to integrate in reports and brochures, or simply display in media or windows. 

Derived Products? 
3D models are currently the talking point of most geo-spatial professionals at present, and again aerial imagery often provides the most cost effective resource to commence production. Simplistic wire-frame models are now rapidly turning into material or photo rendered models for visualisation purposes for new development, rights to light investigations and impact assessment. Pictometry can either provide the basis for extracting image elements to attach to your model, or as the reference for compiling material libraries for rendering. 

And finally, navigation; the personal navigation device, or PND. Blom are now heavily involved in adding a visual image element to the traditional navigation display. Oblique images automatically display once you enter a covered area and are aligned according to your orientation, so as you travel north you see the northern oblique enabling recognition of buildings and other landmarks. Turn a corner to travel east and the display changes accordingly. With the ubiquitous range of databases detailing points of interest, address and business information the potential for integration is endless. 

In summary… 
New technology will always attract a degree of scepticism and concern that prevents many from making the early investment in fear that the product is an overnight phenomenon. Now, many years down the line, oblique images through Blom and Pictometry are being utilised in numerous applications, solving numerous needs, constrained only by the imagination of the user. 

Blom Aerofilms Limited, the UK’s leading provider of aerial imaging, digital mapping and geospatial solutions, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Blom ASA, a major European provider of mapping and land consultancy services. 

For further information please contact either Chris Moore at cmoore@blomaerofilms.com or Paul Crisp at pcrisp@blomaerofilms.com 

Blom Aerofilms Limited, 
The Astrolabe, 
Cheddar Business Park, 
Wedmore Road, Cheddar, 
Somerset 
BS27 3EB 
Telephone: +44 (0)1934 745820