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Aerial mapping: Flight to efficiency

Peace Map is a professional surveying and aerial mapping company, founded in 2006. Peace Map provides aerial photography, space and aerial data processing, and professional surveying services to public and private-sector organisations in China. It has mapped more than 50 percent of the terrain in the country for both government and private sector customers.

Business needs
When Peace Map was established as a subsidiary of China Siwei Surveying and Mapping Company, it used analogue film for its aerial mapping projects. However, the company faced issues with analogue film, especially at a time when many companies were turning to digital image capture. Specifically, the analogue film was costly and time-consuming to process. The costs for film and the chemicals required to develop the film were rising. Plus, Peace Map had to account for film-processing time when working on projects for customers.

Not only did Peace Map struggle with the inefficiencies of film, it also wanted to avoid the grainy, lower-quality images that often result from using analogue film. The company found that its customers wanted higher-quality images, particularly with digital cameras gaining popularity. In addition, Peace Map realised that delivering superior images was a key differentiating factor that would contribute to its longterm success. The company wanted to switch from film to a digital format to gain the efficiencies and image quality that it aimed to achieve. After deciding to switch to a digital camera, however, the company still had to choose the best camera for its needs.

Solution
Peace Map evaluated several digital aerial cameras. After comparing camera features, including image footprint, Peace Map chose the UltraCamD largeformat digital aerial camera from Microsoft Vexcel Imaging. After purchasing its first Ultra- CamD camera in 2006, Peace Map acquired two UltraCamXp cameras, which have even larger footprints than Ultra- CamD. The UltraCamXp has one of the largest PAN image footprints with 17,310 megapixels across the flight strip (196 megapixels in total), making it a suitable digital aerial camera for larger jobs.

For instance, in 2008, Peace Map captured high-resolution images of an area affected by an 8.0 earthquake in Wenchuan County, China. The county used these images to accurately assess the damage caused by the earthquake and to help with reconstruction planning efforts. Peace Map was honoured by the Chinese government.

In January 2011, the photogrammetric services company purchased three Ultra- CamLp digital aerial cameras. It has an image footprint of 11,704 megapixels across the flight strip (92 megapixels total), making it suitable for smaller projects and for the smaller aircraft that Peace Map has. In total, Peace Map has six Microsoft Vexcel Imaging Ultra- Cam cameras that it mounts in its various aircraft, which include Cessna 208 and Harbin Y-12 and Y-5 airplanes. Peace Map also uses the UltraMap workflow software system for image management. The workflow software works with all of the UltraCam cameras, so Peace Map has a common platform for image processing. By using UltraMap, the company can process a large number of images in a short time frame and with minimal manual intervention. Peace Map works with Imagemaps, a reseller in the Asia Pacific region, in addition to another local reseller for camera support. The company plans to further expand its digital aerial camera fleet and purchase the latest in the UltraCam series, the UltraCam Eagle.

Benefits
By using UltraCam, Peace Map can capture high-quality digital images with fewer flight lines and without the headaches of processing film. In addition, the company can easily capture images in low light, in low contrast, or in weather conditions that would produce lower-quality images with traditional film. Peace Map also avoids the costly development process for film and can begin processing images in-flight. Since the company switched to Ultra- Cam, Peace Map has been able to deliver the superior images that customers want. With the regular innovation that Microsoft delivers, Peace Map plans to use UltraCam for years to come.