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Agencies considering advanced aerial mapping

Several area agencies are looking into a process called Pictometry — a patented, advanced form of aerial imagery and associated computer program named for the company that provides the service — to increase their existing functionality and better serve the community.

While Pictometry has been on the radar for several agencies in southwest Colorado for some time, work done by La Plata County and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe (SUIT) to have the aerial photography completed next spring have spurred on additional local discussions, including a presentation by Pictometry staffers Tuesday.

In attendance to hear the presentation were Archuleta County Assessor Natalie Woodruff (who is spearheading the effort locally), and representatives of the Town of Pagosa Springs, the county (including the commissioners), Pagosa Fire Protection District, EMS, Forest Service, La Plata Electric Association and the county’s department of emergency management.

In short, Pictometry is aerial mapping similar to Google maps and Google Earth, but which is taken at a higher resolution and is more technologically advanced. In addition to showing the area from an overhead view like other mapping, Pictometry takes imagery from a 40-degree oblique view, capturing all sides of buildings.

The imagery is also georeferenced. That intelligence factor allows for things such as measurements to be taken via the software, and, if the flights that create the images are repeated (such as every two years), would provide historical comparison.

Benefits of the imagery, as stated in the meeting, vary from helping assessors find unpermitted buildings and better assess structures to helping plan responses to events like fires.

Currently, 13 Colorado counties work with Pictometry, which works internationally and is based out of Rochester, N.Y.

Woodruff said that, by looking at Pictometry and potentially lining up flights this fall, the county and other interested agencies could experience a cost savings by grouping the mapping flights in with those being conducted for La Plata County and the SUIT. Montezuma County and Cortez are also reportedly looking into the product.

Cost estimates presented at the meeting, which ranged from only the main corridor in Archuleta County being flown to the entire county, each with varying levels of resolution, ranged from $38,000 to $201,000, with that cost split over a two-year period.

Other questions and concerns addressed during the presentation included privacy concerns, with Pictometry representatives showing that people present on the maps could not be identified and stating that imagery collected during flights does not intrude, such as seeing into windows.

The agencies in attendance expressed varying levels of interest and listed other agencies and companies that could benefit.

Those in attendance vowed to discuss the project with their own entities and meet again in the coming weeks to see who is interested and what areas of the county they consider important for the imagery.

This story was posted on July 24, 2014.