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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Nearmap Provides High-Rez Oblique Imagery and 3D Products in Ready-to-Use Service

 
July 27th, 2017 by Susan Smith

At the Esri User Conference 2017 held in San Diego this July, Australian company Nearmap announced a national survey program providing true, high-resolution oblique imagery and derivative 3-D products.

The aerial imagery company already provides cloud-based subscription access to up-to-date 2-D orthomosaic aerial imagery. Using its patented HyperCamera2 technology, Nearmap uses a fleet of airplanes, pilots, and camera systems that cover over 70% of the U.S. population three times a year to provide ortho imagery. Their business model is unique in that it provides a level of detail and scale of coverage of oblique imagery in a ready-to-use service.

Because this new camera system provides a high degree of overlap from different angles, Nearmap can reconstruct the real world in stunning detail, producing not only high-resolution orthomosaic and oblique imagery, but also surface and terrain models, natural color point clouds and textured 3-D meshes.

“This level of detail and scale of coverage of oblique imagery has never been available as a ready-to-use service for commercial and government needs until now,” said Patrick Quigley, senior vice president and general manager, U.S. of Nearmap. “The HyperCamera2 processes maps reality, by capturing the tops, sides and view angles of locations, buildings and objects, providing specific details of what’s exactly on the ground.

Nearmap VP of marketing, Tony Agresta provided additional insight into the business model: “People don’t come to us and say we’d like to pay you to fly Sacramento, because we’re always flying. We’re making the imagery available online within days of capture, so it’s automatically processed to the Amazon Cloud and made available in Esri’s or Autodesk’s products or our map browser that is our viewing tool.”

People like the consistency of Nearmap. “They can always count on us, we have a clear coverage model, flying three times a year, because we’re able to scale up and down in the Amazon Cloud depending on how much imagery we’ve captured.”

Agresta adds that Nearmap has built economies of scale to their process, and built automation into their whole process that ends up creating a very competitive price point for buyers.

Leaf off capture is done in the Spring, prior to leaves coming out. Leaf On is done in the fall. Imagery volume is high in the Spring because you have some tight windows of time. Nearmap must fly before leaves come out but also need to avoid areas with snow and always monitor weather.

So, for example, Chicago is tough to capture leaf off because the snow melt is late and weather problems could delay things.   But we have been successful here and in other cities like this.

Announced at Esri UC were the two new forms of imagery offered by Nearmap: oblique imagery that is captured at between 15 and 45 degrees at an angle and gives you height on buildings. That is now being rolled out inside a product called Global Map Browser. It’s available for many U.S. cities right now. The second is derivative 3D products.

“Our commitment is to make sure we fly half the population base in the U.S. before the end of the year, and also 3D imagery which is different,” said Agresta. “These are being derived from our patented camera system, HyperCamera2, that’s actually two cameras in the plane taking numerous photographs at angles that criss cross. As we’re flying over any one location, because of the way the camera systems are architected in the plane, we’re able to snap lots of pictures which gives us a dense point cloud. There are lots of points that outline elevation changes and landscapes and all the aspects of the buildings, and then what we do is put a mesh on top of that and colorize it. That gives us, in addition to ortho and oblique, fully immersive 3D visualization or 3D models. The unique aspect of that is the user can now immerse themselves inside the 3D imagery so they can navigate through buildings and look at all details of it.”

Oblique imagery from Nearmap is seamless mosaic, which, from a user perspective, looking at it in an Esri product per Nearmap’s Map Browser, they can navigate very easily across any of the oblique imagery. There’s no wait time in terms of how it serves up and becomes available to the user. They can view it from any direction or perspective, and it’s completely stitched together and color balanced and ready to go.

Nearmap’s new website go.nearmap.com shows eight different industries using the product with government having four subcategories. Urban planning, and government urban planning involves a lot of GIS professionals.

“The value proposition here is you don’t have to requisition vehicles, or have staff onsite, or be surprised because they’re using out-of-date low-resolution satellite imagery,” said Agresta. “A city government putting in a new development has a government GISP responsible for doing the plan, and they have to put in a right-of-way and where the street is going to end, where are the sidewalks going to be, how will this be laid out, etc.”

“All of this is doable now without leaving your office, because you’ve got this 7 centimeter, consistent high resolution imagery that’s available either on your tablet or desktop. Imagine time savings if you’re a city or county person, analyzing roadways and the impact that 70 large construction cranes are having on the city at the time of events. They getting in the way of traffic, there may be pavement marking lines that have to be painted, degradation of road — all these topics are important to these events to make things run smoothly and facilitate transportation.”

For the security aspect, locations such as Washington D. C. is a district not a state, and it interfaces with neighboring cities and counties. The government and law enforcement can see the same imagery that is current and the details associated with the imagery in the form of ortho oblique coming on line with 3D.

Another example of use might be a medical emergency or public safety issue. You have an accurate picture of ground features to get people to the correct location. Other uses might be lead generation.

How Nearmap captures, manages, and delivers imagery and location is faster, according to Agresta. Some people capture 1 ft imagery or six-inch imagery. The satellite imagery from Google, Bing, or DigitalGlobe isn’t as high resolution as Nearmap’s.

“Ours is 2.8” so you’re talking about differences that are pretty dramatic,” said Agresta. “What about 1“ resolution even higher than 2.8” ? The challenge with that and with drones is scaling it. We’re flying hundreds of thousands of square miles multiple times annually and you can’t do that with drones and you can’t do that as a regional aerial provider flying over Sacramento lower in altitude and slower than we are. You can’t scale to cover hundreds of thousands of miles. So we have this right mix between coverage and resolution. Putting the model on top of it and getting into the cloud quickly is what makes it work.”

Compared with working with drones, if you fly a drone over a local area, you’ll have to do something with the imagery such as processing, and get a software product. Nearmap sees drones as complimentary to their product, not necessarily competitive.

Nearmap has a low cost usage model, so if you use it a lot you pay more, and pay less if you use it less frequently. They are a b2b high tech software company that builds its own features into their products that allow you to measure and calculate area and import KMZ files that provide additional overlays.

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Categories: Autodesk, cloud, data, drones, emergency response, Esri, geocoding, geospatial, GIS, Google, government, location based services, location intelligence, mapping, Open Source, satellite imagery, sensors, spatial data

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