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Applications for Aerial Photography

This page provides an overview of different applications in which Aerial Photos are used and shows APDER´s role in each area.

APDER was founded with the idea of using Aerial Images for civil protection and humanitarian purposes. However, whilst setting up APDER and designing its professional network, it became obvious that the fields of action in which the APDER Team could work and collaborate were numerous. One of the outcome of APDER Field mission was the Development of Spherical Models  (see examples from Haiti) and the SMIS (Spherical Model Information System see Video Tutorial Number 4) which can only be done with balloons (there are a view exception such as Octocopters with an very experienced pilot). 

Civil Protection, Humanitarian Action in Disasters (Natural & Man-made) & Development Cooperation

Disaster Risk Reduction & Prevention:
Aerial Imagery supports the outright avoidance of adverse impacts of hazards and related disasters. They also help the systematic efforts to analyse and manage the causal factors of disasters. For instance, an Aerial Photograph can help - from a general perspective - to analyse the risks, to plan and implement the changes needed such as prevention of landslides, overflowing rivers during heavy rainfall periods, wildfires during heat waves periods. 

One of APDER´s goals is to increase the availability of Aerial Photographs, which would enhance the visualisation of goals and specific objectives within Disaster Risk Reduction plans and therefore enforce Disaster Risk Management.

Example: Many landslides or avalanches are caused by deforestation. Aerial photos can visualise with its panoramic view the topographical situation of village or town and the grade of forestation/deforestation on the hills and slopes above the mentioned settlement. Aerial Photos as visual aid can support local administration and decision makers to stop further construction or deforestation activities or even trigger new reforestation activities. Aerial Photos can support as well the management of land use on the slopes and hills - preventive measures such as the construction of canalisation and drainage systems or avalanche control can be taken.

Preparedness & Mitigation:
Aerial Photos can effectively support governments, professional response and recovery organisations, communities and individuals in order to anticipate, respond to and recover from the impacts of likely, imminent or current hazard occurences or conditions.

APDER aims to support the process of identification, assessment and risk reduction of all things associated with hazards and human activity. The capacity of Disaster Response Organisations is strengthened by providing training and participation in exercises or simulations of disasters.

Example: Aerial Photos can support planning and construction of Camps for displaced persons or refugees. Visualisation of the topographical condition of a camp site can provide essential information to plan heavy rainfall resistant construction and drainage systems to avoid flooding of the camp site in the coming hurricane season.

First Response Phase:
Aerial Photographs can provide valuable information for the provision of emergency services and humanitarian assistance during or immediately after a disaster in order to save lives, reduce health impacts, ensure public safety and meet the basic subsistence needs of the people affected. Especially for:
Situation Analysis - Damage Assessment: Aerial Photographs can provide the first objective impression of damages in a very rapid changing environment. Specifically in situations such as earthquakes or flooding, Aerial Photos facilitate the planning and coordination of adequate response in terms of rescue resources, identifying population groups at risk where human intervention is most needed to limit and prevent hazards during First Response stages.
APDER uses a low-cost technology, completely independent from means of telecommunications (in worst case scenarios), which supports immediate planning, coordination and quick intervention, where time equals saving lives. Through provision of adequate photographic material, Direct Decision Making by the authorities is therefore possible in a much shorter period of time.

Example: After Earthquakes, Aerial Vision can support Onsite Coordination and USAR (Urban Search And Rescue) teams in prioritising. An Onsite Coordinator would have immediately information about the most affected parts of the city (e.g. buildings completely collapsed or partially collapsed) thanks to the panoramic view provided by systems such as APDER uses. Based on this information he would be able to sent the available resources to the chosen priority sites. On the priority site the USAR team leader would be able to set priorities for the search. Based on the view from above the team leader would be able to identify the fastest and most feasible access to survivors. Aerial photos would also allow together with locals of the neighbourhood to identity potential survivors without even understanding the local language thus avoiding misunderstandings and the waste of live-saving time.

Civil Protection - Humanitarian Phase:
The use of Aerial Photographs is an objective manner to retrieve data/information of ongoing life saving activities. They can facilitate better planning and coordination of the humanitarian community to alleviate the suffering of the population affected. Aerial visualisation can provide -amongst other- detailed information regarding numbers, locations and the accessibility to those in need. Thus facilitating adequate coordination (e.g. the 4 Ws / Who is doing What, Where and When) of aid providers and priority setting ensuring better planning to distribute and mobilise the necessary resources in a cost effective manner. 
Situation Analysis - Need Assessment: Aerial Photographs enable within the framework of need assessment to quickly provide objective information about the need of resources and priorities.  

Example: APDER´s Aerial Photographs can provide rapid and accessible information when it comes to the planning of camps for refugees or displaced people. In terms of quantitative and qualitative information (how many tents?), planning information (set up) and structural information about possible locations for a camp site (topographical data and impact).
See also voices of Experts: Interview with Mr. Gerhard TAUSCHER. 
See also Voices of Experts: Interview with Mr.Shean SCALES. 
Rehabilitation & Reconstruction:
Aerial Photography contributes to the restoration and improvement, where appropriate, of facilities, livelihoods and living conditions of disaster-affected communities. This includes the efforts to reduce disaster risk factors, thus supporting the planning and the designing of the interventions and other processes relevant to Early Recovery.

Example: Aerial Photos deliver a good visualisation aid in discussions with the affected population about land use planning. In order to ensure proper planning and the participation of the local population/beneficiaries and the decision making process Aerial Photos are an essential tool, as they allow visualizing the situation and help support reliable and appropriate decision in a situation of constant change. Hence beneficiary participation increases the sustainability of the reconstruction.

Protection of the Natural Environment - Nature and Wildlife.
One of the greatest benefits of Aerial Photography concerning the environment is the documentation of a situation and its change over time by using Aerial Photographs in order to raise awareness. To be more specific, Aerial Photos are a good mean for campaigning. Hence public opinion can influence the willingness of government to incorporate environmental data into existing plans and regulations in order to protect environment. Habitat destruction – often the result of uncoordinated and poorly planned land development – is the single biggest threat to wildlife and environment. On one hand Aerial Perspective help to identify changes which are rarely detected from the ground. On the other hand the photos facilitate sharing these information to make people aware of their environment and the impact of changes in their environment.

Example: Aerial Photos of a glacier in the Alps taken over a period of time are often used to visualise effects of global warming.

Geography & Cartography
Aerial photography became an important part of the mapmaking process in the twentiethth century. Aerial photographs provide a straightforward depiction of the physical and cultural landscape of an area at a given time. When skillfully interpreted, these Aerial Images supply geographers, historians, ecologists, geologists, archaeologists, and other professionals with a pictorial basis often critical to their studies.

Example: Cartographers and planners take detailed measurements from the Aerial Photos for the preparation of maps. Trained interpreters utilise Aerial Photos to determine land-use and environmental conditions, among other things.  Many archaeological sites such as prehistoric settlements has been identify thanks to Aerial Photographs.

Engineering & Urban Planning
High resolution Aerial Images has gained popularity among Planners, Developers and Engineers for small scale mapping for most urban and land development applications. Information from Aerial Photos when combined with GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping is amongst others, used for analysis, strategic planning and evaluation in urban planning and engineering. 

Examples: Aerial Photos support
-Cadastral maps which provide the foundation for subsequent mapping projects to meet the needs of many crucial public services. 
-Evaluation of construction costs as well as strategic planning when it comes to, for instance, environmental impacts of alternative routes for utility and transport.
-Land cover and land use classification.
-Identification of population groups at risk where human intervention is most needed to limit and prevent hazards during development stages.

Agriculture & Precision Agriculture
Aerial Photographs enable more precise interventions and techniques in agriculture.
Precision agriculture is a farming management concept based on observing and responding to intra-field variations. It relies on new technologies like Aerial Imagery and information technology (GPS- Global Positioning System)

Example: The overview of agricultural fields from above delivers information of the actual growth of the crop, possible infestation of pests etc... and can significantly reduce the amount of crop inputs or insecticides used while boosting yields. The benefit of targeting inputs—in spatial, temporal and quantitative terms—concerns environmental impacts. Applying the right amount of inputs in the right place and at the right time benefits crops, soils and groundwater, and thus the entire crop cycle. Consequently, precision agriculture has become a cornerstone of sustainable agriculture, since it respects crops, soils and farmers. (Source:Wikipedia)

In recent years, Aerial Photos has been used more and more in the practice of investigation and reporting of events. They give a geographical idea of a location and they illustrate the information presented to the public. On one side the general coverage of crisis has increased, on the other side journalist are more exposed to danger reflected in the number of casualties amongst journalists - using Aerial Photos might reduce the danger.

Example: Aerial Photographs can be used in situation of civil unrest such as demonstrations.
The system used by APDER would enables journalists not to be in the "first line" of a demonstration but maintaining live coverage without endangering themselves.

Surveillance and Monitoring System
On a big scale such as Earth monitoring, Aerial Photos are used to complement satellite images in order to confirm data interpretation. On a smaller scale, especially in situations of rapid change, Aerial Photos can directly feed with constant information the existing Surveillance System. They can provide surveillance functions of huge properties, frontiers and maritime domains.

Example: Aerial Photos produced with systems such as the one APDER uses could provide important information in Surveillance in special situations such as civil unrest where observation resources are limited. Another use would be the back up system as alternative to existing systems in extreme situations where an autonomous self-sufficient system is required, for instance the surveillance of the surrounding of the premises of an embassy in a failed state country during civil unrest and the absence of public order, etc...

The Tourism including Eco-Tourism and Leisure industries currently use Aerial Photography for new presentation and proposal strategies. Aerial Photos are used for promotional appeal of tourism and their main assets, which include a unique landscape and scenery, impressive cultural heritage, a wide range of sports facilities and other tourist amenities. Resorts, hotels, property owners, tour guides and travel agents use Aerial Photos for tourists to acquire any information on their desired location.

Movie Production & Advertisement
Using Aerial Imagery in movie production is popular, combining different techniques to provide the exact detail, mood or focus the director would like to achieve.

Peace keeping, Civil -Military Applications
Projects are being developed using Aerial Photos for the geographical information it can provide. So far, to our knowledge, helicopters and UAVs are used for reconnaissance purposes.