Landscape With Airplanes

The view from 18,000 feet.

The U. S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Copyright Nearmap.)
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In 1860, well before the invention of both the airplane and the modern camera, James Wallace Black took the first aerial images of the United States, using a daguerreotype from a hot-air balloon.

Hot-air balloon and daguerreotype are still options, but wouldn’t provide the results that aerial photography company Nearmap gets today with twin-engine airplanes and sophisticated multi-lens digital cameras. Nearmap contracts with pilots who fly Cessna 310s, Piper Navajos, and other airplanes on a GPS-guided course at the camera’s 18,000-foot optimum altitude. (Other aerial photography companies typically fly lower and slower, and use smaller airplanes.) By selecting points common in adjacent shots—a particular tree or building, for example—a proprietary cloud-based software stitches together the tens of thousands of photographs captured during a single flight. We could spend hours looking at the results. —The editors

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Atlanta, Georgia

On average, more than 280,000 people per day pass through these terminals, most of them landing in one and connecting to another of over 2,500 flights per day—making Atlanta the busiest airport in the world, a title held continuously since 1999.

This image, just over a mile in width, was stitched together from around 100 photos taken on a single overhead pass. Note the airliners headed toward their gates.

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