Thursday, 28 August 2014

Imagery for Manitoba

Do you sometimes (or always) switch from the map view to the satellite / photography backdrop when using Bing Maps, Google Maps or Esri online products? I do because I like the extra information conveyed with pictures.

Long before the Google, Microsoft and Esri online products were around Manitoba was collecting and creating a photo mosaic backdrop for Manitoba.  Although in those days, it was primarily for GIS and CADD desktop users.

The first round of what many people referred to as digital ortho imagery – or DOI - was flown in the 1990s.  The geographic coverage was southern Manitoba – primarily targeted at the agricultural area, although scope expanded into the Interlake, Whiteshell and Duck Mountains.  The photos were black and white and collected at a 2 meter resolution. 

The imagery turned out to be one of the most important and frequently used GIS datasets that Manitoba has produced.  The usefulness of the imagery also changed the thinking of many hard-core GIS purists, who were convinced that the imagery program was a waste of money and that topographic mapping was the way to continue.

In 2005 a consortium of Manitoba Government Departments, Agriculture Canada (PFRA) and Manitoba Hydro was formed to organize, fund and capture a second round of imagery.  Later Louisiana Pacific also contributed to the program.  The first year of capture was 2007 and the program ended in 2013.  The geographic area was similar to that captured in the 1990s.  The imagery was collected in both color and black & white at 50cm resolution.

The ortho images were made available to the public on the Manitoba Land Initiative (MLI) site.  (Not all imagery is on the MLI because of space limitations.) In addition, Manitoba created an agreement to provide the data to Google so that the information was available in Google Earth and Google Maps.  For a while it was common to see Manitoba credited when zooming around Manitoba in Google products.   Lately, it is less common to see Manitoba credited as Google replaces the Manitoba imagery with more recently collected sources from Landsat, DigitalGlobe, etc.

More than two years ago, in January 2012 (my New Year’s wishesblog), I asked for a new imagery program and stated that: “A Provincial Image strategy that includes the North needs to be developed.”  The last round of imagery is getting old – some of it is 7 years old.

Should Manitoba undertake the cost and effort to embark on a new round of imagery collection?  Should there be an ongoing imagery collection program?  Should the program include the North and the remote areas of Manitoba?  Or, should we rely on the imagery provided by Google, Esri and Bing?

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