Where to Find Imagery

Aerial Imagery can be used for a wide variety of research purposes. Most web maps use existing base maps, of which there are many great options like those from Stamen and Mapbox, but it is possible to load in a raster image for display in a web map. It is also possible to force a custom coordinate system (ie other than Web Mercator) for a given project as well. In this scenario you also have to provide a custom base map, which can be created from imagery.

Earth Explorer – USGS data catalog of 22 data types with multiple satellites and other sources, current and historical imagery

NAIP – National Aerial Imagery Program

NLCD – National Land Cover Dataset

Planet Labs – The world’s fastest growing Planet Imagery catalog

Historical Imagery can usually be found in any state through a local historian, aerial photographer, University Library, or other archive. Getting the photos digitized is the second step, and some places are further along this ultimate cataloging process than others. In Colorado, Colorado Air Photo digitizes photos on request for a fee, and has imagery dating back to 1937. In Michigan, The W.E. Upjohn Center for the Study of Geographical Change at Western Michigan University has 1957 and 1965 complete  digitized and georeferenced copies of the state, and MSU has a physical un-digitized copy of the 1937 flight.

Also related to national coverage, the primary hub for federal geographic data is the USGS National Map which has downloadable layers and endpoints for a wide variety of gazetteer features.

Specifically for projects requiring high resolution, vegetation type data:

  • NAIP
  • Earth Explorer
  • National Map
  • Firewise
  • NRCS
  • USDA Cropland
  • Colorado Natural Heritage Program
  • Landfire
  • USFS R2VEG
Margaret Spyker

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