Launch Slideshow

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A bird's eye view

A bird's eye view

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    Pictures a snap

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    This QuickBird satellite image—at a scale of 1:2500—shows Sullivan Gulch and the south tip of the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. The Burnside Bridge is crossing the Willamette River. Photo: GCS Research.

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    Users can retrieve detailed information by overlaying GIS data on an aerial image. This screen capture shows sewer, stormwater, and water information overlaid on the aerial shot. Photo: RA Smith

Zooming in on the future

Aerial digital imaging isn't just a fad.

The practice of overlaying geographic information system (GIS) maps onto aerial digital images is growing. The key to making the most of the technologies is interdepartmental communication.

“The location information and intelligence is very valuable, but it must be better integrated into the overall business,” says Alex Philp, president of GCS Research, an imagery consultant firm in Missoula, Mont. Aerial digital images are most useful when they're shared with a municipality's information technology department, GIS coordinators, and other entities involved in customer service.

And as Web-enabled wireless technology improves, the uses for these images and the GIS incorporated with them is growing.

Brent Elam, P.E., utility engineer in Spotsylvania County, Va., wants to put these moving maps into his vehicles. “GPS would be attached to the truck, and we'd always know where we are” in relation to the site they're trying to reach, he says.

Cash-strapped agencies can use this technology to establish and collect user fees, such as charging constituents for stormwater runoff.

Aerial images, for example, can enable a public works department to calculate pervious versus impervious areas. “Residents can be charged for impervious areas, generating user fees for the city,” says Brian Dubis, GIS project manager with consultant firm RA Smith & Associates, Brookfield, Wis.