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22
May

Imagery as a Commons

Kate Chapman, CTO


My first notable interaction with imagery of any type was 15 years ago in my “Introduction to Imagery Interpretation” class as part of my geographical studies. Our teacher told us that we were special because we could observe and analyze objects from above, instead of the on-the-ground frame of reference most people were limited to. We had a perspective that others didn’t. Since the advent of Google Earth and other online mapping systems, I highly doubt that the students of that class are informed of their specialness any longer. Countless people around the world use maps to simply zoom in to their homes and neighborhoods, to speak nothing of the effect online mapping systems have on everyday life. With the increased availability of imagery, the importance of it as a base for mapping activities has become greater and more integral.

Throughout my history of community mapping for disaster preparedness, access to imagery has been key. Now that I’m delving deeper into the land tenure space, it is clear the needs and challenges of these spheres are quite similar. Many small NGOs have technical and financial difficulty in legally accessing imagery through a clear license and in utilizing it effectively on a technical level.

These issues propelled me to recently participate in a two-day workshop for OpenAerialMap. OpenAerialMap is an Open Source project that will serve as a distributed, searchable catalog of imagery discovery and processing. This project is intended to alleviate the current technical difficulties in determining what imagery is available and from where it can be obtained. Additionally, by providing access to a commons of imagery, groups lacking resources will be able to avoid the costs of purchasing commercially available imagery. The workshop focused on mapping out current technical specifications as well as future plans to build a commons of imagery through partnerships. While these discussions and coding are still in the early stages, I’m excited for Cadasta to take part.


Photo Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Caption by Kathryn Hansen.

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