Sunday, July 29, 2012

Aerial imaging comes to Muskogee: Project expected to provide “invaluable” resource

Low-flying airplanes will buzz the city this winter to snap photographs that will be used to assemble a three-dimensional-like view of Muskogee’s streetscape. 

The aerial imaging project is expected to provide an “invaluable” resource for the city’s law enforcers, emergency responders, planners and developers.

City Planner Gary Garvin said the images assembled from the photographs will enable viewers to observe structures and other objects from multiple angles on a computer screen.

The company that patented the process, known as Pictometry, says its images are “easier to understand than traditional aerial and satellite images” and provide 360-degree views that can be referenced with geographic precision.

“Where this will come in handy is when police prepare to serve a warrant or raid a house,” Garvin said. “They will be able to look (at a structure) from different angles and spot different exits before they get there.”

City councilors authorized the project, which will cost more than $28,000. Garvin said his department budgeted $15,000 for the project. The balance will be paid from the proceeds of assets seized by police and forfeited through the judicial process.

Muskogee Police Chief Rex Eskridge said he was impressed with the capabilities of Pictometry and its applications. He told councilors that the investment could save lives.

“In terms of life-saving, this could prove invaluable to us,” Eskridge said, using as examples a search for a missing child, the service of high-risk warrants and reconnaissance. “I would be very impressed with having a tool like this.”

Trent Evans of Pictometry International Corp. demonstrated the technology during last week’s City Council meeting. He showed how the images can be used to map and measure public utilities and neighborhood plats. Using Joplin, Mo., as an example, Evans showed how before-and-after images can be used during disaster recovery.

Pictometry images are stitched together from up to 12 photographs snapped from a 40-degree angle, which provides an oblique perspective. Pixels in the image are trapezoidal rather than rectangular, providing the means to accurately measure an object’s size and position on a map.

Garvin said the Pictometry project is a huge leap in technology compared with the aerial photographs the city uses now when assessing certain areas. Those photographs are one-dimensional and can be difficult to interpret.

With Pictometry, Garvin said, one can measure area, distance, height, elevation, pitch, bearing and other dimensions. Pictometry, a process patented about 10 years ago, is being used to plan emergency responses, planning and development, site assessment, construction and utilities.

Public Works Director Mike Stewart said that although he could find uses for the technology, much of the data he needs — and from which Pictometry draws to make it more useful — was gathered a few years ago during an aerial photography and digital mapping project completed in 2009.


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