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30 Years of Vexcel Imaging

Sanborn relies on Vexcel Osprey systems to meet growing demands for oblique imagery

30 March 2022
Nadir and oblique aerial imagery

Graz, Austria • March 30, 2022

In response to growing demand for oblique aerial imagery in the vegetation management, tax assessment, and 3D GIS markets, the Sanborn Map Company purchased two Vexcel UltraCam Osprey systems to better serve those applications. The Colorado Springs company replaced its existing oblique system with the large format Osprey M3p, primarily for its four-band nadir camera and wide-area coverage.

“Most oblique systems capture only the Red, Green, and Blue bands, but the Osprey also acquires the Near-Infrared with its photogrammetric nadir camera, which means we can provide much more information for vegetation management applications,” said Sanborn CEO John Copple.

Periodic mapping of vegetation growth in electric transmission corridors is a major part of Sanborn’s oblique imaging business as energy utilities take steps to avoid wildfires touched off by trees contacting powerlines. Sanborn collects three-inch resolution imagery or better for utility customers to evaluate vegetation near power lines. In addition, the Near-Infrared data helps determine vegetative health, so that dead or dying trees can be removed.

An equally important and growing application is in tax assessment where local governments rely on Sanborn’s oblique imagery to find and measure changes to structures and properties – such as room additions, pools, and decks – that alter their taxable value. The combination of oblique and nadir data at resolutions down to one inch gives these customers an information-rich view of every property from all perspectives, explained Copple.

The Era of Digital Twins

While Sanborn expects significant growth in the utility and assessment markets, the oblique imagery application that could eclipse them all is Digital Twins. The Osprey is ideal for making large-area, high-accuracy 3D models, or Digital Twins, of entire cities in a cost-effective manner. The availability of sophisticated, yet affordable, 3D processing software has been a contributing factor as well.

“Before the Osprey and 3D software, the cost to build a Digital Twin was very high,” said Copple. “But thanks to the width of the CCD array in the camera, we collect more data in fewer flight lines – which makes acquisition more cost effective. And we don’t need to supplement the imagery with LiDAR [due to the Osprey’s spatial resolution].”

The market for Digital Twins will expand significantly, predicted Copple, driven in large part by the new 3D model capabilities in the Esri ArcGIS package. This functionality makes it possible to turn any GIS into a fully immersive 3D environment, enabling users to view and interact with building structures, natural objects, utility assets, and every other GIS feature in three dimensions.

“Smart Cities, simulations, asset management, emergency response – all applications become infinitely better in 3D,” said Copple. “Information content goes way up when GIS data is overlaid on a 3D model.”

Seamless Integration

The decision to buy the Osprey system was an easy one for the geospatial solutions provider when it decided to expand its oblique business. In terms of maintenance and operations, the Sanborn technical team was already intimately familiar with the Osprey hardware because it operates similarly to the Vexcel UltraCam Eagle, which the firm had been operating for years.

Another advantage of the system was the seamless integration of the Osprey UltraMap software developed to process oblique data sets. Sanborn integrated this software at the front end of its custom production workflow to perform initial image processing, quality control, aero-triangulation, and orthorectification.

“The Osprey has been a very cost-effective tool for us and our customers. The quality of the imagery and the integration of the data into the Sanborn Oblique Viewer, as well as the ESRI oblique viewer, enable a host of applications and uses to be accomplished,” Copple concluded.

About Sanborn

The Sanborn Map Company, Inc. (Sanborn) is an innovator in the modern geospatial industry, delivering state-of-the-art mapping, visualization and 3D solutions for customers worldwide. The firm currently operates a fleet of aircraft located strategically across the United States. Embracing cutting-edge technology, Sanborn specializes in oblique aerial imagery, aerial and mobile LiDAR mapping, aerial orthophotography, 3D modeling and visualization software and services, SPIN indoor mapping, unmanned aircraft system (UAS) sales, services and image processing, and a host of geospatial software products. For more information visit www.sanborn.com.


About Vexcel Imaging

Vexcel Imaging, a leader in the geospatial industry, develops cutting-edge large-format aerial cameras and photogrammetric software with innovative approaches, and places an emphasis on continuing product upgrades and world-class support. The broad UltraCam aerial camera portfolio covers all applications in airborne photogrammetry — from nadir to oblique to wide-area data collection. UltraCam data is processed with the UltraMap photogrammetry software, providing an end-to-end processing workflow for highly automated, quality data products that include point clouds, digital surface and terrain models, orthophotos and 3DTINs.

We are always looking for talented and motivated people to join our team either in Graz, Austria or Denver, Colorado.

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