Aerial Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
You can search, and download the dataset through the EarthExplorer. With this site you can access the USGS/EROS archives (Landsat, Aerial Photos and other land remote sensing data).
Yes, USGS/EROS has digitized over 6.6 million frames of aerial film creating medium-resolution digital images (400 dpi) and associated browse files for on–line viewing and have scanned over 4 million of the same frames at 1,000 dpi. Both the medium and high resolution aerial TIFFs can be downloaded. These files can be downloaded through EarthExplorer. Film scan requests can be made through EarthExplorer after you identify the frame you need. All billing activities for film scan orders are serviced through the USGS/Reston. They will contact you to complete the order.
Customers can request a higher resolution aerial or Declassified image to be scanned for a $30.00 per frame service fee. A $5.00 handling charge will be applied per request. All requests will need to be made on-line through EarthExplorer.
If you have any payment, billing, or account questions, please contact the USGS/Reston:
U.S Geological Survey, Receivables Management Section
Mail Stop 271
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, Va 20192
Email: GS-A-HQ_RMS@usgs.gov (link sends e-mail)
Phone: (703) 648-7683
A segment of the USGS archives remains on film media that has not yet been scanned. Scanning efforts are under way to capture digital data from the film media, but this process will span many years. Users may side-step the lengthy process of waiting for the no cost data by paying a service fee for on-demand scanning requests as a credit card transaction at $30.00 per frame/scene plus an order fee of $5.00.
No. Film Scanning requests are completed under a first in first out (FIFO) policy. The average turnaround time from confirmation of payment to delivery is 3-4 weeks
No. The USGS service fee for film scanning is non-refundable. Replacement scans can be provided if you select the correct image and work back through the USGS contact the USGS at GS-A-HQ_RMS@usgs.gov.
Film scanning requests that are not confirmed for payment through a credit card transaction initiated through the USGS Business Partner Office will be deleted after two weeks. Contact the USGS at GS-A-HQ_RMS@usgs.gov regarding your order number and take the final steps to activate your request if you want to receive the data.
The High Resolution Orthophoto and DOQ files provide the most detail. You would probably be able to identify your neighborhood. There is no guarantee that your house would be distinguishable.
The USGS does not have a year to year methodology for acquiring photography on a routine basis. The Imagery for the Nation is the next major program that will attempt to do that job sometime in the future (https://www.fgdc.gov/iftn). The USGS also relies on its partners to acquire imagery on an "as needed" basis.
Aerial Photography and Declassified Satellite images cover various distances depending on the project. EarthExplorer provides a mechanism to plot the coverage area for each frame on a map and to use Google Earth to see the extent of coverage.
CIR (color infrared) film, originally referred to as camouflage-detection film, differs from conventional color film because its emulsion layers are sensitive to green, red, and near-infrared radiation (0.5 micrometers to 0.9 micrometers). Used with a yellow filter to absorb the blue light, this film provides sharp images and penetrates haze at high altitudes. Color infrared film also is referred to as false-color film.
Black-and-white panchromatic (B/W) film primarily consists of a black-and-white negative material with a sensitivity range comparable to that of the human eye. It has good contrast and resolution with low graininess and a wide exposure range.
Black-and-white infrared (BIR) film, with some exceptions, is sensitive to the spectral region encompassing 0.4 micrometers to 0.9 micrometers. It is sometimes referred to as near-infrared film because it utilizes only a narrow portion of the total infrared spectrum (0.7 micrometers to 0.9 micrometers).
Natural color (also referred to as conventional or normal color) film contains three emulsion layers which are sensitive to blue, green, and red (the three primary colors of the visible spectrum). This film replicates colors as seen by the human eye.
Film resolution is dependent on film type, camera, lens and flight height. On average black & white film will have greater film resolution than color film. Please use the scale field to help search for the resolution that fits your needs. Scales of 1:500 to 1:24,000 are best for identifying buildings. Scales of 1:20,000 to 1:80,000 work well for agriculture and geologic interpretation. Scales in excess of 1:150,000 provide regional assessment information.
No. Film scans are faithful copies of the imagery from the source film. Distortions imposed by the scanners are removed, but no other correction work is done to geo-locate the image scans to ground truth. Value added companies in your area may be able to provide such services, but the USGS does not offer these services to the public. The DOQ (Digital Orthophoto Quandrangle), HRO (High Resolution Orthoimagery) and NAIP (National Agriculture Imagery Program) collections may be another data source to consider if you have this requirement.
No. Images produced by the USGS film digitizing system are not geocorrected. They are pictures of the film frames that were generated with high speed 14 mega pixel cameras to generate browse and provide no cost medium resolution down-load files for over 6.4 million frames of aerial photography.
Yes. Information is maintained on-line regarding the USGS policy for legal certifications.
Pursuant to 43 U.S.C. 1460, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center hereby certifies that the product downloaded through our web site is an authentic reproduction of an official record of the Government that is in the legal custody of the USGS EROS.
Go to this website and make a copy of the USGS policy statement https://eros.usgs.gov/sites/all/files/external/eros/USGS-Certification.pdf.
Yes, you will need to acquire at least 2 consecutive digital images from the same roll and then create transparencies or contact prints to view them stereoscopically. Stereo pairs may also be created digitally with the right equipment and software.
The USGS does not endorse software. You can use any program that will accept a TIFF image. Examples of software include Adobe Photo Shop, Windows Picture & Fax Viewer, and other graphic software.
Take the USGS download files to a local print shop. The USGS no longer maintains a photo lab to generate paper prints or film copies. Your local business directory may include a list of companies that can take these TIF files and generate prints for you as an additional service. Here is a list of companies that may also be an option to you.
Yes. Scanning of the EROS film archives is following a plan to capture images from rolls at risk of decay from vinegar syndrome. Science requirements are also reviewed on a regular basis, but a formal, on-line schedule is not available at this time. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have further questions.
Yes, Here are some references to consider:
NASA's Gateway to Astronaut Photography: https://eol.jsc.nasa.gov
Earth Data Analysis Center: https://edac.unm.edu/
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA): https://www.archives.gov/
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): https://www.epa.gov/
Aerial Photography Field Office (APFO): https://https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/aerial-photography/
USGS/EROS provides access to image collections that are supported by on-line browse and complete metadata. Other collections may not have met this requirement and are under consideration for such support. Here's a list of other sources that may have photography of interest to you
NASA Shuttle and Manned Spacecraft - https://www.nasa.gov/missions
In such cases, the film sources are no longer stored at EROS. The USGS has a records schedule that transfers film media for permanent storage by NARA. In such cases, the USGS will only have medium and possibly higher resolution data as the down load option for these records. Once film records meet the NARA schedule criteria and are transferred they become the responsibility of NARA and its vendor companies to provide other user product options.
NARAmaintains a list of private companies that provide service in gaining access to their aerial film collections. NARA takes ownership for USGS film records that are older than 40 years old and are no longer of use by the USGS. Here is the NARA web site for ordering aerial photography
Maybe. Issues that may affect the quality of the scanned product include scratched film and data capture anomalies. Minor film scratches may have occurred when the film was used for its original purpose. Cover letters describing these issues are provided for on-demand scan requests/orders. Data available for immediate down load are not supported by cover letters since there is no way to fix scratched film. Users are expected to work around minor problems or select another image source.
The film scans provided by USGS/EROS are faithful reproductions of the uncorrected imagery that resides on the film. No ortho correction algorithms have been applied to these scans. Ortho correction involves the removal of camera/lens distortions and the applying of ground control point processing to correct the imagery to specific map accuracy specifications. This process is left for the user to do per their specific data requirements.
The USGS Optical Science Lab (OSL) was decommissioned in September of 2017 and no longer certifies cameras for use in USGS flight contracts. However, historical camera calibration reports continue to be maintained on-line for user access either through https://calval.cr.usgs.gov/osl/calibrationreports.php or through EarthExplorer (https://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/). Access to non-USGS camera calibration reports can be problematic and is dependent on what agency or organization was responsible for the flight. Such flights are at risk for not having calibration reports.
Metadata for EarthExplorer film collections are not 100% accurate. Collection systems at the time the film was acquired were not as advanced as they are today and the metadata provided to the USGS are as good as they can be for these older collections. Please use the browse imagery to verify your area of interest. In the case of the Declassified Satellite imagery, both the USGS and NARA share the same metadata as provided by the Defense Department.
No. There are no restrictions on data received from the U.S. Geological Survey's Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, unless specifically stated in a user license agreement identified prior to or at the time of data receipt. If you want to give USGS credit, please use the citation information provided through the following url:
The header record of the DOQ you have should include a reference to the film used to make the DOQ. There is a possibility that the DOQ was produced with digital imagery not provided to the USGS. DOQ products are contracted through commercial companies for delivery to the USGS. In some cases we may have to refer you back to the original company for this information.
When tar files do not view correctly, check the configuration options:
For example: On the WinZip Menu, under Options/Configuration/Miscellaneous:
Uncheck the "TAR file smart CR/LF conversion" Option
Try WinZip again.
Yes, Declassified Satellite images can be requested to be scanned at 7 or 14 microns if the image has not already been scanned. Once available, the image can be downloaded through EarthExplorer. EE can be used to search, preview, and download existing high resolution scans or place requests for other scans at $30.00 per scene, plus a $5.00 order fee per transaction. The Declassified imagery are also available through NARA and its vendors: