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Infrastructure Outlook: Key Points You Need to Know About Aerial Photography

Admin on May 31, 2016 - in Column, Surveying/Mapping

By Sherry and Brett Eklund


No matter the project at hand, knowledge is power. The more perspective an engineer can gain when planning or completing a job, the better. An aerial photographer, offering insights and data that can’t be gathered any other way, is an essential member of the team. Aerial photography provides an unmatched tool in evaluating a landscape before breaking ground, and it’s extremely helpful for assessing project milestones and reporting to offsite team members and managers on progress. It gives a unique, comprehensive perspective that’s difficult to obtain by any other means.

Chances are, on any given project, the services of a qualified professional are going to be required. When it comes to engaging an aerial photographer to ensure everything goes according to plan, a few key points should be considered.

Understand Options

The initial step is to understand the options available and their most-valuable applications. There are two general types of aerial photography: oblique and vertical. Oblique shots, which are caught from an angle to the subject, can help with site choice and assessment as well as provide land data and visual proof of varying conditions that may influence a structural venture. Vertical images, by contrast, are done when the camera is pointed straight down, and they’re more-often used as a part of the structural-design world for the more-intricate strategies of photogrammetry and LiDAR.

Photogrammetry is a captivating practice and has numerous utilizations, but as it’s by definition the discipline of making estimations from photos, it’s especially valuable for structural specialists when scouting an area for a task and monitoring its progression. Precision is vital, and the picture taker’s gear does make a difference. However, what’s most essential from the structural designer’s point of view is understanding his or her need and/or level of detail wanted.

An experienced photographer can provide pictures that enable examination of depth so detailed that leaves on the ground can be measured. Of course, if the need is for just higher-level points of interest (e.g., statues or edges of precipices), shooting for such accuracy may be superfluous and a misuse of assets.

LiDAR uses bright, ultraviolet or nearly infrared light to make detailed and precise pictures, and it’s also used for making digital elevation models. One noteworthy differentiator when contrasting LiDAR with photogrammetry is its ability to depict regions sheltered by vegetation; it’s conceivable to assess the landscape at a more-profound level to literally get deeper into the terrain. Again, this could be vital to the task or it may be unnecessary, depending on the project. LiDAR can be extremely valuable in evaluating the complexity of a landscape before pursuing an undertaking, whereas traditional photogrammetry is helpful for surveying and follow up to track project progress.

Choose the Right Team

When employing an aerial photographer, regardless of the task at hand, it’s vital to choose the right team for the project. Every job will have its own unique set of requirements, and it’s essential to know your needs and how they will match up to the photographer’s competencies. Because the field of aerial photography is highly specialized and requires expensive equipment as well as aircrafts and pilots, options in a particular area may be limited. As such, it pays to call around and get estimates and price quotes from several sources.

Reach out to professionals in different areas and inquire about rates. Because the work intrinsically includes travel, many teams are open to booking shoots in different states and may have lower general rates, even with extra travel fees tacked on. Aerial photography is an industry in which every individual expert is allowed to set his or her own particular price points, so shopping around and investigating past work and client referrals could prove valuable.

The main takeaways: Recognize what services a given project really requires, and don’t be shy about price shopping. As with all aspects of a structural building task, picking the best experts for each duty is Step One in guaranteeing a winning outcome.


Sherry and Brett Eklund cofounded Desert View Aerial Photography; dvaerialphoto.com/contact.

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