How Geospatial Data Helps Model Reality

How Geospatial Data Helps Model Reality

Geospatial data is continuing to play an essential role in establishing accurate models of reality for a wide variety of projects. The application of geospatial intelligence has and will continue to impact businesses, such as engineering, oil and gas, real estate, and more, through the implementation of more detailed and valuable models. Proper modeling allows geospatial data users to understand better the relationship of complex systems that vary over space or time. These geospatial data models provide information critical to more efficient risk analysis, land use planning, and even business decisions regarding where to expand.

Decades ago, the only option for creating 3D models of structures and terrain was to build physical miniature replicas or dioramas. Then, satellites and digital imaging delivered higher accuracy views that miniatures couldn’t compete with.  In recent years, the advent of cloud computing has made digital geographic information systems more accessible by removing the barriers to taking advantage of these services.

But problems still arise. Budget, accuracy issues, lack of experience, and other obstacles can create challenges for companies utilizing GIS. Prius Intelli makes seeing the reality of your project more effortless than ever by pairing digital modeling with reliable orthoimagery and expert geospatial services.

(Viewshed analysis from a point of interest)

What Makes Prius Intelli Different

First, we use state-of-the-art technology to capture geospatial data to generate detailed documentation of topographic site conditions through digital elevation models created in the latest version of ESRI ArcGIS Pro. High-resolution data reduces the need for site visits and overcomes the limitations of human error.

Next, we pair that geospatial data with imagery captured of the site so you can see what’s on the ground in incredible detail. Our proprietary processing workflows produce seamless imagery with accuracy you can trust. So you have the confidence knowing that the pixel resolution refers to the actual distance on the ground that each pixel represents in the aerial image.

The accuracy and reliability of the geospatial data captured enable models to be built that can test scenarios under different conditions and empower users to explore creative ideas in their decision-making.

Finally, the resulting high-resolution geospatial data becomes an infinitely valuable tool for analysis and is prime for use in machine learning workflows to help improve understanding of your project over time.

Why Aerial Imagery Resolution & Freshness Matter

Why Aerial Imagery Resolution & Freshness Matter

Important business decisions should never be based on inaccurate data. Having current, high-quality data is critical to any project’s success. With that same logic, it’s easy to see why the right resolution and data currency can make or break your aerial imagery. But what is data currency/freshness? How do you make sure you get high-quality aerial imagery? To choose the best aerial imagery partner, it’s important to understand how aerial imagery is made and what impacts its quality. 

What is aerial imagery and how is it produced? 

Aerial imagery, also known as orthophotography, is the combination of aerial photos and data analytics. It is typically used in conjunction with GIS services, which help break down the data and make it usable. Since orthoimagery provides valuable geospatial data, it is used for a wide variety of projects and industries, including but not limited to the following:  

  • Oil & Gas
  • Ranching 
  • Surveying & Land Services 
  • Real Estate 
  • Transportation 
  • Utilities 
  • Renewable Energy

Whether digging a ditch, building a subdivision, designing a pipeline, or assessing downed power lines, orthoimagery provides a detailed bird’s eye view that allows project managers to make the best decisions possible.  

There are three main ways to get aerial images for your project: via satellite, drone (unmanned aircraft), or manned aircraft. Each method has its benefits and can vary differently in accuracy. Whichever method you choose, know that the key to accuracy lies in the image’s date of collection and spatial resolution.  

What is data freshness/currency? 

Data freshness or currency is simply how new the imagery is. So why does time matter with images? Because things change with time. 

For example, many popular satellite data providers have imagery that spans the whole globe, but this imagery can be up to a few years old, especially in rural areas. It takes the satellite providers a long time to fully update their data. So it’s common for things on the ground to change between when the satellite image was created and when it is used. 

Certain satellite companies do have imagery with a much higher temporal resolution (the time it takes to revisit and collect imagery for a certain place). However, those images are usually low in spatial resolution (blurry, pixelated). Also, tasking a satellite to cover the same area at a quick interval can be very expensive. 

Other aerial imagery providers and satellite data companies will often blanket large areas, collecting massive amounts of data, then resell bits and pieces of it to companies that need the imagery. However, based on when the interested company is asking for the data, the imagery can become outdated very quickly. 

At Prius Intelli, we produce aerial imagery on demand using our own manned aircraft. And we don’t collect imagery of an area until a customer orders it. This ensures that the data is up-to-date, so you’re getting a viewpoint into time very near to the present. You can learn more about how our services offer a great alternative to satellite and drone imagery here

Spatial Resolution vs Data Freshness 

For aerial imagery, clarity and sharpness are just as important as the time in which it was flown. Spatial resolution describes the size of the pixels (and thus total number of pixels) in an image. The size of the pixels is relative to the size of what they represent on the ground. For instance, 5 cm resolution imagery means that each pixel represents 5 cm (2”) on the ground. The higher the spatial resolution, the clearer the image becomes. When an image has a low spatial resolution, details can become blurred or disappear altogether, which can be frustrating for the user. 

If you are shopping for aerial imagery, look for resolution specs described in terms of centimeters or inches to understand the quality and clarity of images you’ll receive. However, that clarity means nothing if it is out-of-date. That’s why we produce images on demand instead of relying on historic databases. 

When paired together, spatial resolution and data currency can produce incredible high-quality imagery, giving you the details and data you need to make informed decisions. 

Is accuracy worth the investment? 

For clients using aerial data to plan, proactively monitor, or perform diligence on important projects, positional accuracy and data freshness are difference makers. Poor quality aerial imagery can result in obsolete imagery, missed details, or outright inaccuracy. Because of the problems, low-quality images can cause, investing in high-quality imagery can be a money-saver later down the road. 

However, the reality is that your budget can often define the accuracy of your photos – but it doesn’t have to. While satellite imagery can be cheaper, the spatial resolution may be less than desired (or outright useless for your use case). On the other hand, many companies offering high-quality images can have minimum cost thresholds that prevent smaller companies from participating. Our team has developed a proprietary workflow to produce high-quality orthoimages at an incredible value. Because we produce images on demand and have our own fleet of manned aircraft, we are able to deliver detailed images quickly, giving you the current data you need to succeed.  

7 Best Ways to Use Orthoimagery

7 Best Ways to Use Orthoimagery

While aerial photography provides bird’s-eye images of the surface, orthoimagery takes it a step further by combining it with the benefits of enhanced maps. From pipeline development to real estate valuation, many industries depend on this accurate, up-to-date information about land to make key decisions. Erroneous or outdated information can cause major delays “ or worse. That’s why accurate, real-time imagery is imperative to the success of any business. While some of the use cases for orthophotography may be obvious, you might be surprised at all the ways it can be used:

1. UPSTREAM OIL & GAS

Those in the oil and gas industry can benefit greatly from orthophotography. Specifically, orthophotos can be used for surface monitoring and change detection and tracking in upstream projects to give an updated look of a project’s process. While many in this field opt for pre-existing satellite imagery, those images can be outdated and don’t provide the accuracy and resolution of custom orthophotography.

2. MIDSTREAM OIL & GAS

Orthoimagery is also incredibly valuable for midstream businesses and the use cases are many. We’ve seen orthoimagery used for a variety of projects, including route planning, right-of-way encroachment, construction monitoring, pipeline classification, PHMSA compliance studies and overall line monitoring. Specifically for pipelines, orthophotos provide the accuracy needed to confidently break ground on a new pipeline and comply with the necessary safety guidelines.

Orthoimage of pipeline ditch by Prius Intelli

3. RANCHING & HUNTING

When ranching, it’s key to have an intimate understanding of your property. That’s why the terrain and elevation data collected during an orthoimagery project can be extremely useful to ranch brokers. Water-related data like stream networks, basins, and contour lines can inform surface water decisions regarding livestock and other ranching needs. Additionally, viewshed data can be used for building blinds when hunting is allowed on the land.

Orthoimage of a pond from Prius Intelli

4. SURVEYING & LAND SERVICES

Orthophotography can be a cost-effective way to gather key data used in surveying and land-related services. When used in the planning stage, high-resolution orthophotos can provide a strong foundation of knowledge for project leads and engineers. Instead of choosing traditional methods that are often expensive and time-consuming, orthoimagery can provide a more affordable alternative that’s just as useful.

5. REAL ESTATE (DEVELOPMENT & VALUATION)

The data collected from orthoimagery is incredibly valuable for real estate developers, appraisals and valuations. Consider the water-related data, contour lines, slope rasters and elevation data available in a properly developed aerial image. This data can be used to plan out retention ponds, determine areas of high erosion, project planning and more. Plus, unlike satellite imagery that is often of a wider area than needed (not to mention obsolete), orthoimagery can be made of specific locations for more accurate, time-sensitive information.

Orthoimage of real estate development by Prius Intelli

6. UTILITIES

While helpful in planning stages of most relevant industries, orthoimagery can also help businesses respond to unplanned events. Consider the utilities industry. After a large storm, an orthoimage of the affected area can help identify downed power lines and poles much more effectively than doing physical drive-bys. As another example, orthoimages can help monitor tree overgrowth so utility personnel can maintain the integrity of the power lines over time. Knowledge is power “ and the data from aerial imagery can empower your business to respond effectively whenever the unexpected occurs.

Facility aerial by Prius Intelli

7. RENEWABLE ENERGY

A lot goes into the planning and development of renewable energy products. For example, solar farms require detailed analysis to meet slope requirements and dam construction requires an informed understanding of the streams and run-off systems in the area. Orthimagery and its related GIS services can provide all this and more. When processed properly, aerial imagery and elevation data can provide a real-time understanding of the environment, allowing you to use an area’s natural resources as effectively and efficiently as possible.

THE RIGHT ORTHOPHOTOGRAPHY MATTERS.

At Prius Intelli, we know how important it is to understand the value of your project’s environment. Our dedicated team delivers accurate, high-resolution orthophotography, GIS services, and elevation data on demand and at an incredible value. We collect our imagery on an order-by-order basis, so your data is gathered in real-time and delivered on time. For more on how we can help your business, reach out today for a custom consultation and a free quote.

How and when to use manned aircraft aerial imagery, drone or satellite

How and when to use manned aircraft aerial imagery, drone or satellite

Vertical aerial photography is invaluable for capturing geographical information that informs everything from mapping and asset condition to elevation data and change-detection. It wasn’t long after the birth of photography that someone thought to capture an image from the skies. The earliest aerial photographers used balloons, kites, rockets and even pigeons to carry their cameras.

old aerial image taken from a kite
This image was taken in the late 19th century from a kite. The first kind of aerial imagery.

Wilbur Wright piloted the first airplane to capture an aerial photograph in 1909. We still use airplanes to carry cameras into the skies today, but their technology has advanced greatly. The information collected goes far beyond pictures, providing a plethora of data that starts with beautiful imagery. But not all aerial photographs are created equally. Today, vertical imagery used for GIS (geographic information system) purposes is mostly done from one of three vehicles: piloted airplanes, unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites. Although each has its unique value and purpose, the precision of data that can be captured and the costs associated should be considered when deciding your needs. However, keep in mind that it’s not necessarily an either/or situation. These technologies can be complementary.

SATELLITE IMAGERY

Orthoimage of pipeline ditch by Prius Intelli

Satellite images are what people find most familiar in terms of vertical geographical imagery, thanks to Google and Bing maps. The first satellites were sent into orbit in the 1950s and today hundreds of Earth Observing Satellites are in orbit around our planet with their sensors and cameras pointed back at us. The information they provide helps us to understand our planet, its geographical features and climate. People often think that with so many satellites it would be easy to obtain specific and detailed aerial imagery of almost anything or any place on Earth. It’s not. There are a few challenges with satellite imagery. First, there is the problem of what information is made available to the public. Although satellite technology exists for capturing detailed and real-time data, that data is mostly owned by governments. Regulations around privacy and national security limit what most people can access, which is mostly dated and low-resolution imagery. There is also the issue of time lag between vertical data being captured by a satellite and the image being made available. That data can be weeks, months or even years old. Satellites generally do a sweep of a particular area every couple of years. Someone looking for signs of recent land erosion or pipeline leaks won’t find satellite imagery useful. Not to mention the issue of clouds that can block views. The cost of satellite imagery can be prohibitive. Small companies often find it hard to get what they need. Satellite images are licensed by brokers who are not motivated to work with customers that only require imagery of small areas. Satellite imagery is good for a broad view of a very large area that doesn’t require fine resolution.  

UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE IMAGERY

example of drone used for a land survey
This is a great example of a drone that would be used for aerial imagery and land surveys. Although high-tech and high-quality, they have their limitations due to flying range and regulations.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), frequently referred to as drones, have been used since World War II for both military and commercial use. As the name suggests, UAVs don’t have pilots on board. However, they do require licensed operators on the ground that know what they’re doing. Drones are very special to me because that’s where I started my career in aerial imagery. Those little flying robots are just the coolest thing, but UAVs are heavily regulated due to aviation safety and privacy concerns. You need direct access to the property you want to survey and all the permissions that go along with that. The real positive about drones is that they can provide very high-quality data because of the low altitudes they are capable of. UAVs can be very tactical. If you know where you need very detailed imagery captured, you can send in a drone team.  that can record very specific data. But if you have a project of a larger size or scope, it’s really not feasible for most companies to use UAVs in today’s regulatory environment. The cost is typically prohibitive due to the man-hours and all the permissions needed.  

MANNED AIRCRAFT IMAGERY 

image out of the window of manned aircraft
This image was taken in South Texas by Prius Intelli’s manned imagery aircraft pilot.

Manned aircraft are just as significant for capturing aerial imagery and data today as they were in the days of the Wright brothers, who literally took aerial photography to the next altitude. Although not all operators do this, the right aerial imagery provider will carry advanced equipment that can provide very high resolution and cover extensive distances in a cost-effective way. Airplanes can cover a lot of ground very quickly. That’s a lot of data potentially being captured in a relatively short amount of time – not just visual data, but also elevations and other geographical information. Manned aircraft are also more weather and wind resilient. It is not uncommon for imagery to be needed in areas with sustained winds over 35 miles per hour. Winds like that would all but ground most UAVs due to the operating limitations of an unmanned aircraft. A company with in-house drone capabilities and hundreds of miles to cover would find it more feasible and economical to start with a broader, manned aerial survey to identify small areas that need closer examination by drone. This approach can make it possible for engineering firms to provide cost-effective imagery for their customers and multiply their own UAV imagery utility. Using unmanned vehicles with this approach provides a very clear and repeatable return on investment. Manned aircraft imagery can be invaluable for things like detecting leaks along a pipeline or for an aerial survey of a vast area of land. It’s a great solution for engineering firms, land service companies and just about anyone with an interest in understanding a piece of property or area of land. If you are trying to monitor and ensure the viability of a location-based asset, aerial imagery can make that much easier and more efficient. And with working from home so common, assets can be monitored from a desktop in an employee’s home office. Although manned aircraft aerial imagery is a stand-alone solution, it can also be complementary to UAV and satellite. 

MANNED AIRCRAFT IMAGERY VS. SATELLITE IMAGERY

manned aircraft imagery from prius intelli compared to satellite imagery
This image compares Prius Intelli’s manned aircraft imagery from a South Texas ranch to satellite imagery. The clarity, precision, and accuracy of Prius Intelli’s manned aircraft imagery is unmatched.

At the end of the day, there is a place and a use for wide area satellite imagery, strategic, manned aircraft geographical data and surgically placed UAV/drone coverage. Satellite images can give you a very broad understanding of a region. Manned aircraft can be used to pinpoint problems across long distances and identify with precision those small areas you might want to surgically insert a drone team. The sky’s the limit with all the advanced aerial imagery technology available, but it all starts with knowing your budget, along with how fresh and detailed you want the data to be.  If you have questions about aerial imagery or would like some help understanding how it can benefit your business, please don’t hesitate to reach out to usWe’re always ready to help leaders find solutions.GET IN TOUCH