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The Revolution of True Orthophotos: Precision in Urban Planning, Construction, and Environmental Monitoring

Introduction

In today’s data-driven world, true orthophotos have emerged as indispensable tools, transforming how we visualize and analyze the Earth’s surface. Orthophotos have become integral products in various industries, from urban planning to environmental monitoring.

While traditional aerial photos have long been valuable, they often fall short in terms of accuracy due to distortions caused by topographic relief, lens distortion, and camera tilt.

True orthophotos, on the other hand, provide a distortion-free, accurate map-like view of the Earth’s surface. This article explains the technology behind true orthophotos, their advantages over traditional aerial images, and their applications in various fields.

What Are True Orthophotos?

A true orthophoto is an aerial image that has been geometrically corrected (orthorectified) to remove distortions caused by the camera angle and terrain.

This is a view of a given object from a perspective located at an infinite distance from the given object of interest – best shown in the illustration below. The farther from the ground surface, the smaller the distortions. For this reason, high-resolution photos from the satellite ceiling are becoming increasingly popular in creating true orthophotos.

Traditional orthophotos vs. true orthophotos. Source: GIM International

Traditional orthophotos vs. true orthophotos. Source: GIM International

This correction process ensures that the scale of the photograph is uniform, making the true orthophoto an accurate representation of the Earth’s surface, akin to a map.

True orthophotos represent a significant advancement, offering a uniform scale and accurate representation of the Earth’s surface. Unlike traditional orthophotos, true orthophotos account for the three-dimensional shape of the terrain and objects, ensuring that all elements are in their correct horizontal positions.

In traditional orthophotos, shifts of elements protruding above the ground surface, e.g. building roofs, are often visible.

The Technology Behind True Orthophotos

Case study: Keitschick Homestead, Kluki, Poland

To illustrate the process of creating true orthophotos, let’s examine a case study of a historic cottage named Keitschick Homestead from the Slovinian village museum in Kluki, Poland

Creating a true orthophoto involves several steps:

  1. Image Collection:
  • High-resolution images are captured using UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or aircraft equipped with specialized cameras.
  • These images are taken at various angles to ensure comprehensive coverage.
  • Case study: 122 images of the historic cottage were taken
Case study, one of 122 images of a historic cottage, in Poland

Case study, one of 122 images of a historic cottage, in Poland

  1. Digital Surface Model (DSM) Creation:
  • A DSM is generated from the collected images using photogrammetric techniques.
  • This model includes the elevations of terrain and above-ground features like buildings and trees.
Case study, DSM model

Case study, DSM model

  1. Orthorectification:
  • The DSM is used to orthorectify the images, correcting for distortions and ensuring that all objects are correctly positioned.
  • This process involves algorithms that adjust each pixel based on its elevation and position.
  • To verify the accuracy of orthophoto and to add georeferencing to the photogrammetric model, the photogrammers use Ground Control Points (GCPs).
Case-study, camera and Ground Control Points error estimates

Case-study, camera and Ground Control Points error estimates

  1. Mosaicking:
  • The corrected images are then stitched together to create a seamless orthomosaic.
  • Photogrammetric softwares ensure that the overlaps are handled smoothly, and any discrepancies are minimized.
True Orthophotos - Case-study, final product

Case-study, final product

For examples of high-quality orthophotos and orthomosaics, visit Maps Made Easy, which showcases impressive samples of these technologies in action.

  1. Additional products:
  • Orthoelevations are a product of photogrammetric processing.
  • They can be used as a texture in rendering 3D buildings in virtual reality or simply in conservation.
  • The idea is similar while producing true orthophotos, but in this case, the observer stands at an infinite distance from the facade of the building.
Case-study, orthoelevations

Case-study, orthoelevations

Advantages of True Orthophotos

True orthophotos offer several advantages over traditional aerial images:

  1. Accuracy: True orthophotos provide a highly accurate representation of the Earth’s surface, with a positional accuracy of less than a meter or even several centimeters. This accuracy is crucial for applications that require precise measurements and analysis.
  2. No Distortion: Unlike traditional orthophotos, true orthophotos do not exhibit distortion from building lean or terrain variations. Every feature is shown from a direct top-down perspective, ensuring consistency and reliability.
  3. Enhanced Detail: True orthophotos capture fine details such as individual buildings, trees, and other features, making them invaluable for urban planning and detailed land use analysis.
  4. Consistency: These orthophotos maintain consistency across different datasets, making them ideal for change detection and monitoring over time.

Applications of True Orthophotos

Urban Planning

True orthophotos are useful in urban planning. They provide city planners with precise, up-to-date imagery that can be used to map out new developments, assess infrastructure, and analyze population trends. The accuracy and detail of true orthophotos ensure that planning decisions are based on reliable data.

Construction

In the construction industry, true orthophotos are used to monitor project progress, plan site layouts, and ensure compliance with design specifications. The ability to measure distances and areas accurately from orthophotos helps in resource management and project planning.

Environmental Monitoring

True orthophotos are essential for environmental monitoring. They allow for the detailed observation of changes in vegetation, water bodies, and land use. Environmental scientists use these images to track the effects of natural disasters, human activities, and climate change, facilitating informed decision-making for conservation efforts.

Challenges and Best Practices

While the creation of true orthophotos is straightforward in theory, it involves several challenges:

  1. Image Overlap: Ensuring sufficient overlap between images is critical. Without proper overlap, gaps and inaccuracies can occur. A general rule is to aim for at least 70% overlap.
Case-study, the effect of low image overleap may leat to distortions of the final product

Case-study, the effect of low image overleap may lead to distortions of the final product

2. Lighting and Camera Settings: The quality of images can be affected by lighting conditions, camera settings, and weather. Overcast conditions generally provide the best results, as they minimize shadows and glare.

3. Flight Planning: A well-planned flight path is essential to capture consistent, high-quality images. Adjustments for altitude and speed need to be made to account for varying terrain heights and to avoid blurry images.

True Orthophotos - Case-study, post-flight path

Case-study, post-flight path

Choosing the Right Software

The choice of software for processing orthomosaic maps is crucial. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Processing Speed: Cloud-based solutions like WebODM often provide faster processing times compared to on-premises software, especially when handling large datasets. This software may process all collected data much faster than manual processing. However, cloud processing may sacrifice some control over the process so the user is not fully protected against the detection of big errors.
  2. Accuracy: Look for software that offers tools for ground control points and scale constraints to enhance the final product’s accuracy. Correlator3D and Pix4D Mapper tend to produce highly accurate results.
  3. Stability: Ensure the platform is reliable and capable of handling large projects without crashing or errors. Cloud-based solutions often provide better stability.
  4. Ease of use: User-friendly interface can significantly reduce the learning curve and streamline workflows. WebODM is relatively easy to use once set up, while Correlator3D offers automated templates.

Summary

True orthophotos represent a significant advancement in the field of aerial imaging. Their accuracy, lack of distortion, and high level of detail make them invaluable tools in various industries, including urban planning, construction, and environmental monitoring.

By leveraging advanced technologies and following best practices, true orthophotos provide precise, reliable data that supports informed decision-making.

For those interested in exploring the capabilities of true orthophotos, Maps Made Easy offers excellent examples and resources to get started. As technology continues to evolve, the applications and accuracy of true orthophotos will only improve, further solidifying their role as essential tools in modern geospatial analysis.

More about ortho imagery you can find in our article: What is the difference between orthophotos, orthophotomaps, orthomosaics and true orthophotos?.


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Geo Addressing Decoded, Part 4: Exploring the Applications of Geo Addressing Solutions
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Geo Addressing Decoded, Part 4: Exploring the Applications of Geo Addressing Solutions

Accurate address data is essential. Precise location information ensures that more deliveries and services arrive on time, reducing losses and improving customer relations. In terms of compliance, correct address data ensures that companies are paying correct taxes and duties for any goods or services they deliver. Having access to digitally versatile and enriched addresses can streamline business processes, improve efficiency, and allow companies to scale more rapidly and expand to new markets.

In our previous articles, we have explored the intricacies of traditional addressing systems, the innovations in geocoding, and the advanced features of Precisely’s Geo Addressing solutions that make them invaluable for any business. In this final part of the series, we will focus on the practical applications of these technologies across some key sectors, and the transformative impact they can have.

Applications of Geo Addressing Across Sectors

The versatile nature of Precisely’s Geo Addressing solutions and the PreciselyID makes them applicable across a wide range of industries, enabling organizations of all sizes to increase the use of address data and quickly associate rich, relevant information. Using a unique ID allows a company to transform their first-party data, and makes that data easily linkable, with the rest of Precisely’s portfolio of data, driving incremental value and opening new use cases and analysis.


Read More:

Geo Addressing Decoded Part 1: Why Does Geo Addressing Matter?
Geo Addressing Decoded Part 2: Beyond Coordinates – Exploring the Depth and Impact of Geo Addressing
Geo Addressing Decoded Part 3: Diving into the Key Features of Precisely’s Geo Addressing System
Geo Addressing Decoded Part 4: Exploring the Applications of Geo Addressing Solutions


Our first article in this series (‘Why Does Geo Addressing Matter?’) discussed some of the specific sectors that suffer from inadequate addressing systems. Here, we look at how they can benefit from applying Geo Addressing:

Ecommerce and Fraud Prevention:

According to Forbes, 20% of retail purchases are predicted to take place online in 2024. When making a purchase online, a smooth address entry process, using intelligent autocomplete, enhances the customer experience. As previously mentioned, 4% of cart abandonment is due to problematic address entry, and one in five online shoppers have abandoned their cart at some point due to these issues (Baymard Institute 2021). It follows that the quicker a user’s address is accepted by the system, the more likely they are to complete a purchase or registration journey.

According to Forbes, the ecommerce industry was worth $5.3 trillion in 2022, but $41 billion was lost to e-commerce fraud. A Pitney Bowes study from 2019 suggests the losses from failed deliveries reached a massive $333 billion. Precisely’s technology can help mitigate losses from both fraud and failed delivery. Using hyper accurate address validation and verification, makes it much harder for criminals to exploit ecommerce vulnerabilities through address jigging (manipulation of address details) and other fraudulent activities. And, of course, accurate address data ensures that deliveries reach the correct destinations without issues, further improving customer experience and increasing the likelihood of return custom as well as reducing losses.

Delivery and Logistics

According to 2018 data from UPS, the typical cost of mishandling a delivery due to poor addressing can range from $10-$100. Geo Addressing ensures the smooth operation of the delivery chain by providing precise and validated address data. This reduces delays, failed deliveries, and lost packages, ultimately protecting businesses’ profits and reputations. When it comes to the case of hyper-local delivery, as many as one in five jobs are cancelled or late due to location problems (according to 2019 data from Google), but with accurate geocoded addresses, delivery companies can optimize their routing, ensuring timely and efficient deliveries.

Emergency Services and Transportation:

Precise address data is critical for quick and accurate location identification, significantly improving response times during emergencies. Accurate Geo Addressing can literally save lives by enabling first responders to locate individuals in need with speed and accuracy. High accurate address data, also helps in coordinating disaster response efforts, ensuring that all responders have access to the same accurate information.

The stakes may be lower for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, but they too can benefit from more accurate address data. Uber data from 2019 suggests that 10% of drop-offs are missed or delayed due to address location issues, and accurate geocoding (and reverse geocoding) can help to reduce this.

Insurance:

Property and personal insurance companies require high-quality address information to accurately assess risk—currently, 20% of total revenue loss in the industry comes from bad addresses (MIT Sloan). Accurate address data from Precisely allows insurers to properly evaluate risks and set appropriate premiums, while reliable address verification and validation technology help to anticipate and prevent fraudulent claims, ensuring that insurance cover is based on accurate and legitimate information.

From a business strategy point of view, Precisely’s enriched address data enables insurance firms to gain a comprehensive view of aggregate risk. This helps them to inform their broader pricing strategy, and to target and retain the most profitable customers.

Real Estate and PropTech:

The real estate industry obviously needs accurate address data for a range of functions, but according to multiple sources, the industry is currently working with a huge number of missing or incorrect addresses. Precisely’s datasets include detailed information about addresses, with 9,000 attributes covering the neighborhood as well as the property itself, which can be attached to a PreciselyID. This enriched data is invaluable for real estate agents and property managers in making informed decisions related to valuation, and more.

More broadly speaking, high-quality, enriched address information allows real estate businesses to keep abreast of economic development, to improve lifestyle modelling and market analysis, and consequently to make more informed decisions about site selection.

Applications in Telecommunications:

Accurate address information is essential for planning and optimizing telecommunications networks, to ensure efficient service delivery and coverage. Furthermore, when telecommunications companies are expanding networks or capacity, they need to know how many secondary addresses are attached to a primary address—in other words, does an apartment complex contain ten apartments or a thousand? This is key to calculating return on investment (ROI) and the network capacity. Precise geocoded addresses also help telecommunications companies to provide accurate service availability information to customers, which is vital for customer satisfaction.

Geo Addressing Decoded, Part 4: Exploring the Applications of Geo Addressing Solutions

Applications of Geo Addressing Solutions

The Future of Geo Addressing Applications

The shift from traditional addressing methods to advanced solutions like Precisely’s Geo Addressing technology represents a significant leap towards greater accuracy and utility in addressing. This has the potential to revolutionize address data management across various sectors—advancements in address management don’t simply improve delivery and logistics but also enhance customer experiences, streamline business processes, and impact bottom line.

Precisely’s features are not just about improving current systems but also about envisioning and creating new possibilities, as businesses find unique and powerful use cases for enriched, linkable address data. The potential for even more detailed applications, such as assigning identifiers to specific rooms (in student accommodation for example) points towards a future where every space, no matter how small, can be accurately mapped and identified. Innovations in AI and machine learning are set to further refine geocoding processes, enhancing accuracy and adaptability, as well as enabling the seamless utilization of the vast amount of address data at our disposal.

Address management also has the potential to impact broader aspects of global connectivity and economic development. It’s worth considering societal implications too: the way we name and organize spaces has profound implications for identity, access, and social equity, and addressing systems can therefore mirror societal issues.

Throughout this four-part exploration of Geo Addressing solutions, we’ve looked at the fundamental challenges of traditional systems, explored some of the solutions that have been developed in response, and highlighted the impactful applications of Precisely’s trailblazing technology. We hope this series has provided valuable insights into the essential role of precise addressing in our interconnected world. Thank you for joining us on the journey!

 


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