Photography from Coast to Coast to Coast!
The online digital maps and printed navigation charts that we use in our professional and personal lives would not exist had it not been for creative thinkers and risk-takers who lived more than a century ago. Sometime in the autumn of 1858, on the outskirts of Paris, Gaspard-Felix Tournachon loaded his camera into the basket of a hot air balloon, climbed in, and ascended into the sky. From an unknown altitude he took the first aerial photo – of three houses and a delivery cart in the village of Petit Bicetre.
Many Canadians involved in wartime photo reconnaissance applied their skills in aerial survey back home after hostilities ended. The equipment and techniques associated with high-altitude and high-speed stereoscopic photography developed during the war transformed air photography in Canada (and other countries) after 1945. Aircraft used by the US in the war such as the P-38 Lightning and B-17 Flying Fortress were employed postwar in aerial survey in this country.
Until 1956, most photographic surveys were flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force. Since then, however, all aerial photographs used for federal mapping have been contracted to commercial air survey firms. The federal government initiates the bulk of aerial photography in Canada; the Interdepartmental Committee on Air Surveys (ICAS) supervises and determines, through a bidding process, which contractor will do the photography and sets forth the specifications to be followed. ICAS coordinates all federal aerial photography and works together with the provinces to align federal and provincial programs. ICAS prevents duplication, establishes priorities and, in general, ensures that maximum benefit is derived from each flight.
Over the years, aerial photographic surveys have been made on a regular basis for mapping, charting of the sea coasts, building of highways, town planning and any ground activity where a measure of size or change must be made. Aerial photography provided the first true measure of the size and physical makeup of the surface of Canada. Over the past 50 years, it has played a vital role in such major engineering developments as the Trans-Canada Highway, the Labrador Railway line and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Aerial photography proved invaluable in the opening of the North and in the evaluation of Canada's forest resources. Today, aerial photography remains an essential tool in mapping, the management of forests and waters, in pollution and vegetation damage control, and in urban planning and environmental management.
Fixed-wing airplanes used in aerial survey range from single-engine, piston Cessnas to large, multi-engine, turbine airplanes like the Dash 7. Jet aircraft such as the Citation II and Learjet 35 have been equipped with cameras and other remote sensing gear. Canadian survey aircraft and crews have flown on every continent, at altitudes as low as a few hundred feet to 35,000+ feet.
Aerial survey requires prolonged concentration on the part of the aircrew and precise flying (to within one degree of heading). Flight lines can be in excess of 100 nm and survey areas made up of several lines. Crews, which often comprise a single pilot and a survey equipment operator, are typically away from home base for several weeks each year, sometimes in Third World nations. Aircraft maintenance is done by a company AME or a local maintenance provider.
Canada has been photo-graphed from the air from coast to coast to coast, and most areas have been captured on film several times during the past 80+ years. Over six million aerial photographs, archived at the National Air Photo Library in Ottawa, are available to the public.
The Library’s Web site is at: http://airphotos.nrcan.gc.ca/
The National Air Photo Library has introduced digital aerial photography on CD-ROM. By the simple process of importing a digital aerial photograph into a graphics program, planners, environmentalists and other geomatics professionals will be able to "zoom in" and conduct a detailed analysis of any site in Canada, or quickly add boundary lines, street names or other important information.
What does the future hold for aerial survey? Creating new technologies and combining them with cost-effective airborne platforms such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles is a development that will grow in the years ahead. UAVs employed in survey work are capable of flying for 12+ hours and at very low altitudes where it would be dangerous for a crewed airplane. Geophysical data and aircraft performance information is continuously transmitted to the Ground Control Station, and in case of in-flight difficulties or transmission problems, UAVs are ‘smart’ enough to return to base on their own. Thanks to the advanced technology, a single operator can remotely fly more than one survey UAV simultaneously.
Since the early 1960s, the final frontier for remote sensing has been space. On Sept. 29, 1962, the first scientific research satellite was launched from the Pacific Missile Range, and put in a 1,000-km orbit. The satellite, the Alouette-I, was conceived by scientists at Canada’s Defence and Research Tele-communications Establish-ment and used to study the ionosphere. Its design life was one year, but because it was well built and its design included then-new technologies such as transistors and solar cells, the Alouette-I was in operation for a decade, producing more than one million images of the ionosphere.
Today, Canada has a number of remote sensing satellites, such as Radarsat 1, this nation’s first commercial Earth observation satellite. Orbiting at 798 km since November 1995, Radarsat-1 has provided images for use in agriculture, cartography, hydrology, forestry, oceanography, geology, ice and ocean monitoring, Arctic surveillance, and oil slick detection. The satellite covers the Arctic daily and most of Canada every 72 hours, depending on where its instruments are pointed.
Radarsat-1 launched in November 1995, provides Canada and the world with an operational radar satellite system capable of timely delivery of large amounts of data. Equipped with a powerful synthetic aperture radar (SAR) instrument, it acquires images of the Earth day or night, in all weather and through cloud cover, smoke and haze.
Radarsat-2, launched December 14, 2007 is an Earth observation satellite for the Canadian Space Agency by Starsem, using a Soyuz FG launch vehicle, from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome. Radarsat-2 was previously assembled, integrated and tested at the David Florida Laboratory near Ottawa, Ontario before the start of its launch campaign. The end of the spacecraft and ground segment commissioning period was declared on April 27, 2008 after which routine commercial operation started.
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