Maps have been
around a lot longer
than you’d think. Turns
out there are map-like
major stellar and
dating back around
25,000 BC (www.e-
Measuring and charting the world has been a topic of
research for thousands of years! While we are not going to
make maps in the traditional sense, using photographs
from airborne vehicles is not a new idea. The first known
aerial photograph was taken from a balloon by Gaspar Felix
Tournacho in 1858!
Another popular method of capturing aerial
photographs was through the
use of kites. One of the most
famous aerial photographs of all
time was taken just after the
catastrophic 1906 San Francisco,
CA earthquake (Figure 1). This
panorama captures an incredible
amount of detail and has been
digitized and put on the web in an interactive format
wrence.php). We talked about exactly how that photo was
taken and how it was recreated on episode 73 of the Don’t
Panic Geocast ( www.dontpanicgeocast.com/?p=298).
Since the days of kite and balloon photography, more
advanced technologies like rockets, satellites, and high
altitude aircraft have taken over the job of aerial
photography (Figure 2). Using
stereo image pairs, geologists
and cartographers have made
many maps detailing the
elevation and characteristics of
the Earth’s surface. Space shuttle
and satellite based digital
elevation models (DEMs) are
freely available and let
geographic information systems
(GIS) professionals do lots of
useful mapping and analysis.
Some companies (like
Google) have even given us
street level reconstructions of the
world so we’ll never miss another
OpenDroneMap — Part 1
By John Leeman
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46 SERVO 04.2017
In one of the first MacGyver episodes, MacGyver comes up with several creative uses for a map.
“The great thing about a map: It gets you in and out of places in a lot of different ways,” he says.
As a geoscientist, I’m equally fascinated with maps. Spending time with a good map can reveal a
wealth of information. This month, we’re going to begin to make our own maps using our
quadcopter, a camera, and some open source software.
Figure 1: An early aerial
photograph taken by
George R. Lawrence shortly
after the great 1906 San
Francisco earthquake. This
photo was sold to many
and is now freely available
in high resolution online.
(Image courtesy of
Figure 2: The earliest photos of the
Earth from space showed the
curvature of the planet and weather
systems. This photo is from a V- 2
rocket flight on October 24, 1946.
Satellite imagery has since become a
crucial part of planetary monitoring.
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia/White
Sands Missile Range/Applied Physics