Aerial photography is empowering us to preserve our environment, one picture at a time.
Aerial photography can trace its roots back to 1858 when Gaspard-Félix “Nadar” Tournachon photographed Paris from an altitude of nearly 500 meters aboard a tethered balloon.
With the world’s first bird’s-eye view, that image opened the door to new possibilities, leading to photos being taken from kites and pigeons before airplanes entered the picture. With satellites, aircraft, drones, and high-definition cameras at our disposal, aerial images can capture even the tiniest geographic details all around the world.
Enter 3D aerial photography, which now enables a wide range of industries — including government, construction, engineering, real estate, transportation, mapping, and solar — to visualize, evaluate and measure landscape data with precision from the convenience of a mobile device.
However, aerial photography is doing much more than you would expect. With applications in reducing emissions, protecting natural resources, and documenting the effects of climate change, aerial photography is playing a vital role in preserving the future of the environment.
Accessible by mobile devices anywhere in the world, dynamic aerial imagery helps visualize every aspect of a 3D landscape. Having remote access to these details means that professionals and public servants don’t have to travel to survey the locations at which they’re working.
For example, an architecture firm planning a new building can use aerial imagery to measure for available parking lot space around a new site. Ordinarily, they would have to travel to the site multiple times to get that kind of information. But access to aerial imagery gives them confidence about the feasibility of their project and allows them to move forward faster.
Does this remote access to aerial imagery help reduce emissions? The answer is yes. Let’s say there are 500,000 visits to our service in one month. Meanwhile, we’ll assume every physical on-site visit requires one hour of travel time. Using our savings calculator, users would save 66M kg of CO2 by using aerial photography rather than traveling to their sites.
That’s not to say the process is entirely emission-free. You still have to factor in the CO2 the planes emit as they capture the photography. However, the difference is still substantial. We fly about 330,000 linear kilometers per month. According to the carbon footprint calculator, that means we generate about 104,000kg of CO2 per month.
Figuring out how to lower our carbon footprint is a priority. But with the savings vastly outweighing the emissions, we feel we’re going in a good direction.
Protecting Natural Resources
Protecting our natural resources is crucial for maintaining stable communities and environments. As the Georgia Forestry Commission explains, before urban development takes place, the natural site, is a stable environment.
But that balance is thrown off by human activity. Fortunately, aerial photography can help to prevent damage and waste to natural resources by providing current, detailed imagery to preserve ecological harmony.
This high-tech advantage allows planners to size a project accurately, assess inventory, help enforce minimal risk, and verify that environmental regulations are met — all from their desktops or mobile devices.
Documenting the Effects of Climate Change
“The effects of climate change happen on such a slow time scale that it is often difficult to document visually,” says Josh Haner, a New York Times photographer.
“As a result, I believe a lot of the climate change imagery we have become accustomed to has focused on polar bears floating on pieces of sea ice, or on calving glaciers.” Haner adds. “That type of repetitive imagery has made people numb to a lot of the important stories about how our changing climate is affecting people and places around the world.”
Haner has spent the past four years documenting the effects of climate change with stunning photography to give people a more accurate perspective. Aerial photography can similarly help viewers understand climate change more accurately.
Aerial photography records the changes season after season, making comparisons simple. You can see the effects of droughts and flooding, soil and geology, vegetation, and water. You can not only visualize but also measure these changes. When you understand the changes, you are better able to get to the heart of the problem and make plans to combat those changes.
From that first aerial picture of Paris to today’s highly detailed, 3D imagery, aerial photography has made a more critical difference than Tournachon may have imagined. By reducing emissions, protecting natural resources, and documenting the effects of climate change, aerial photography is empowering us to preserve our environment, one picture at a time.