Aerial Mapping

Vertical Aerial Photography

Posted on January 1, 2019

What is Aerial Mapping?

Vertical aerial photography (sometimes called "satellite views", "aerial surveys", "orthophotos" or "orthomosaics") are photos taken straight-down (nadir) from either an aircraft or satellite. They are different than oblique aerial photography (sometimes called "bird's eye views"), which are photographs also taken from an aircraft, but at an angle. Vertical aerial photographs are generally not as aesthetically-pleasing as oblique aerial photographs, but are used as workable data, such as for aerial photo maps or to produce digital elevation models (DEMs).

Vertical aerial photos give a straight-down perspective, just like a map

San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, California

Every Photo Mission is Custom

Our goal with every photo mission is to understand each client's individual needs and capture the best imagery possible at a competitive price. No two photo missions are alike. We choose the best aerial platform and equipment for each project to minimize costs for our clients without sacrificing on quality. This flexibility and years of experience allow us to safely and legally photograph projects within restricted airspaces and hard-to-reach locations.

How does it work?

Each photo mission is prepared to the custom specifications discussed with the client in advance. Multiple flight lines are generated over the proposed site, designed for high overlap between flight lines and successive images. Ground control points (GCPs), if needed, are acquired for the project (we recommend using GCPs for all projects that will be used in a CAD/GIS environment), requiring an on-site visit with a dGPS.

The mission is flown with high-resolution cameras mounted in a vertical position, pointing straight down. Once the vertical images are all captured, we return to base and begin post-processing.

The images are geotagged and sent through an advanced Surface-From-Motion (SFM) system. This system analyzes each pixel in each individual image and is able to calculate very precise camera positioning using a variety of techniques, such as Automatic Aero-Triangulation (AAT) and Bundle Block Adjustment. Using this precise camera calibration data, a rough 3D point cloud is generated and the individual camera positions are displayed, allowing for a visual quality check of the project. If everything looks good, we introduce the previously-collected ground control point data to improve accuracy and densify the 3D point cloud, which is used to generate a DSM and the subsequent orthophoto.

Animated flight through a 3D point cloud

Common Aerial Mapping Deliverables

  • Orthophoto/Orthomosaic
  • DEM (DSM/DTM)
  • 3D Point Cloud
  • 3D Texture Mesh
  • Contour Lines
  • Quality Report