Slideshow: The Beautiful and Impactful Aerial Imagery of Grassroots Mapping
Want to learn more about grassroots mapping? Read this post about the burgeoning movement and the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science.
All images have been dedicated to the Public Domain, or used with permission by the photographers/cartographers.
Special thanks to Jeff Warren, Stewart Long, Liz Barry, Ray Cha, and all of the grassroots mappers who are building a cartographic movement that makes a difference, and for providing their images and expertise here.
Within the past two years, an inspired bunch of DIY cartographers have pioneered the field of "grassroots mapping." The concept is simple: for about $100 in materials you can shoot aerial imagery that is higher resolution than any standard public satellite imagery. Using incredibly simple balloon and kite contraptions, you can capture the images on demand whenever you want, as often as you want.
Here's a sample aerial cartography "kit."
For more background, see our earlier post about the new, but burgeoning, movement.
One of the main benefits of grassroots mapping is that you can create images that are higher resolution than any publicly-available satellite imagery from NASA, NOAA, or Google Maps. Here you can see the high resolution shots from that first trial flight, compared to the standard Google Maps resolution.
MIT's iconic McDermott Court from above. The first grassroots mapping trial run was a success.
Warren pioneered the grassroots mapping concept in order to help resolve some land rights issues in Lima, Peru. Here's the Juan Pablo II neighborhood, taken in January of 2010.
Grassroots mapping really came of age in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill aftermath. Working with the Lousiana Bucket Brigade during the media blackout when FAA regulations prevented aircraft from flying lower than 4,000 feet above sensitive areas of the spill, Warren and the Grassroots Mapping team flew balloons and kites and captured incredibly vivid images of the oil spill's impacts.
This map of Isla Grand Terre, created on May 27, 2010, clearly shows oil stains on the beach (about two-thirds of the way on the right of the beach sliver image stitch).
Here's an oil slick near the Chandeleur Islands, taken on May 2, 2010.
On Sunday, Stewart Long, Shannon and Mariko from Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and several other volunteers made it to the Chandeleur islands on a boat and in 9mph winds were able to image the slick making its way through the island chain. There appeared to be no booms in place.
Small world: the map is stitched by Cesar Harada, who is also behind Protei, the amazing open source, oil spill-cleaning robot drone project we covered.
In June of 2010, grassroots mapping was employed by mountaintop removal activists in Appalachia. In Sundial, West Virginia, Marsh Fork Elementary School (which we wrote about a couple years back) sits 400 feet downhill from a massive coal slurry impoundment.
Here are the grassroots cartographers at Marsh Fork Elementary, preparing their balloon.
Credit:Chris Eichler Photography
Jeff Warren "wrangling" the balloon above Marsh Fork Elementary School.
Photo by Chris Eichler Photography. Used with permission.
Marsh Fork Elementary School from above. On the bottom right is the coal ash slurry pond. The school in in the center top, 400 feet downhill.
Another mountaintop removal mapping project. The Black Mountain mining site is no longer a mountain. And, writes, Warren, "don't be fooled by the green color -- coal companies spray an invasive weed over it from planes, it grows on anything. This hillside was just crushed rock and no soil at all."
This January, a team set out to create an aerial map of the notoriously polluted Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.