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Aerodata International Surveys: Aerial Mapping from Belguim

Wednesday, October 7th 2009
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Summary:

Directions Magazine interviewed Fred Hagman, managing director at Aerodata International Surveys (AIS), about the company’s operations, products and services, its membership in the aeroGRID consortium, and the growing demand for aerial imagery. AIS is headquartered at the Antwerp Airport in Belgium and primarily focuses on data acquisition activities in western and southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Directions Magazine interviewed Fred Hagman, managing director at Aerodata International Surveys, about the company's operations, products and services, its membership in the aeroGRID consortium, and the growing demand for aerial imagery. The company, headquartered at the Antwerp Airport in Belgium, is an independent, private airborne surveying and mapping company founded in 1992.

Directions Magazine (DM): What is the main focus of Aerodata International Surveys? What geographies do you cover?

Fred Hagman (FH):
Aerodata International Surveys is well-known throughout Europe for its ability to capture high quality aerial imagery and turn it into geo-information products. Aerodata operates a fleet of five aircraft and uses multiple digital cameras and other sensors including three of the latest Vexcel Ultracam X-Prime frame cameras. Aerodata's imagery is used for a wide range of applications and appears in a broad range of media including applications such as Google Earth.

Aerodata's activities are based on three pillars:
  1. Airborne data collection and processing (project based)
  2. Off-the-shelf delivery of readily available imagery (aeroGRID : Aerodata Geo Referenced Image Database)
  3. Consultancy and technical support
We also operate from time to time outside Europe in the Middle East (Yemen, Qatar, Lebanon and Bahrain) and in Africa (Gambia, Mali, Benin, Libya, Congo-Brazzaville and Cape Verde Islands).

DM: Where do you primarily see the demand growing for your off-the-shelf product, aeroGRID? What is driving that demand?

FH:
Increased use of aerial imagery throughout society is leading toward an increasing demand for quick and easy solutions for obtaining this type of product. The growing demand is fueled by wide-spread home and business use of high-speed Internet and popular applications like Google Earth and Bing Maps.

Professionals in all sectors realize much information is geo-located and the combination of various data sources can lead to greater insight and add value to products. Many of these users are looking for readily available, current, high resolution imagery, which represents the real world and shows a tremendous amount of detail, ready for interpretation and mapping. Aerodata offers quick access on a 24/7 basis via browser-based service, thus making it easy to provide whatever the user needs at any given time.

These professional users include city planning specialists, real estate agencies, publishing companies and news agencies, environmentalists, land surveyors, engineering companies, insurance companies, geo marketing organizations and many others.

DM: What technology have you implemented to enable users to easily access the data archive via the Internet?

FH:
Aerodata has dedicated servers available which are connected to the backbone of the Internet. The servers are operated by the Enterprise Orbit Server software. The software supports a wide variety of client desktop and Internet applications.

It is not only technology but also organization! There are already a lot of data available, but not easily accessible. Therefore cross border questions for aerial data throughout Europe and beyond have led to the implementation of the aeroGRID consortium of companies in order to serve clients with Pan European datasets and more that are not in Aerodata's portfolio. aeroGRID Ltd. was founded by Aerodata (Belgium), Getmapping (United Kingdom) and Geocontent (Germany) and has partner relationships with many more suppliers of imagery content.

At this moment aeroGRID supplies high resolution data for over 20 countries across Europe and North America. A recent agreement with DigitalGlobe extends its coverage of up-to-date imagery across the world. The archive holds high quality aerial photography of various kinds: color and color infrared, orthophotomosaics and stereo models at a variety of resolutions (GSD) ranging from 2.5cm to 70cm. Most of these datasets are available both offline and online.

Offline distribution is mostly used for large ortho datasets and for stereomodels with exterior orientation data. Online availability is aimed at quick and easy self-service solutions. Consumers go to a simple but fast browser-based platform for viewing, buying and downloading aerial imagery. It is set up to enable easy navigation, very economical pricing and only five steps from start to finish. Professionals are served via the Pro-version with more options and pricing schemes for obtaining the datasets they need. The viewers are using the latest Flash technology to ensure a good user experience. We evaluated different options and had to go for the fastest viewer we could find to ensure an optimal user experience.The Click and Buy payment module enables every buyer to use the most appropriate payment method (credit card, bank).

DM: What has been the role of standards in the delivery of data?

FH:
The open standard, like WMS A Web mapping service (WMS) is operational for use of the datasets in GIS and CAD applications. Also an API enabling third parties to embed aeroGRID imagery into their own websites is available. It is clear that these services are based on Open GIS standards.

We are currently working on the options for the user to pick other formats, projection systems and increased file sizes for downloads.

DM: What technology have you implemented internally to manage and serve the data to customers?

FH:
Data has to be reformatted internally to obtain maximum Flash viewer performance. Since we are dealing with many different datasets, data management has become a major issue. Aerodata is using scalable computing power and storage capacity. Currently, the total storage capacity is approximately half a petabyte and multiple quad core processing units lead to over 600 Ghz CPU power.


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