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Guide for undergraduates writing a paper or doing research in either physical or human geography.


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Dean Walton

Free Online Aerial Photography - US

There are a number of Online websites that provide access to free, downloadable aerial photography for the United States.

EarthExplorer from USGS

EarthExplorer is a good place to look for individual aerial photography frames of anywhere in the United States. You can search and download images from a number of USGS aerial photography programs. Elevation data, Landsat data, and other satellite and remote sensing data is also available. Aerial photography in EarthExplorer includes:

  • National High Altitude Program (NHAP) Black-and-white and color infrared aerial photographs obtained from an altitude of 40,000 feet over the United States (1980-1989)
  • National Aerial Photography Program (NAPP) Black-and-white and color infrared aerial photographs obtained from an altitude of 20,000 feet over the United States that are available as medium or high resolution digital images (1987-2007)
  • National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) aerial imagery at a minimum resolution of 1-meter ground sample distance (GSD) for the United States during the agricultural growing season (2003 - present)
  • Aerial Photograph Single Frames Coverage is predominantly over the United States and includes portions of Central America and Puerto Rico. Individual photographs vary in date, scale, size, film type, quality, and coverage. While small compared to print aerial photography collections, the coverage is growing as older aerial photography gets scanned and added.
  • Digital Orthophoto Quadrangles (DOQs) computer-generated image of an aerial photograph in which the image displacement caused by terrain relief and camera tilt has been removed. The DOQ combines the image characteristics of the original photograph with the georeferenced qualities of a map (1980s - early 2000s).

Google Earth

Google Earth Pro is a free software you can download to your computer. One of it's capabilities is that it allows you view historic seamless aerial photography by zooming in to a location on the earth's surface and using the clock icon at the top of the map display.  Available years vary widely, depending on where you're looking. In the United States, the earliest imagery available is typically from the 1980s.   

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