VisionMap, LLC


A3 System for NAIP Projects—Typical Scenarios

Today’s economic environment poses significant challenges for mapping companies. Numerous operational constraints, combined with growing competition, are squeezing companies’ profitability. In order to compete effectively, mapping companies must boost their operating efficiency and offer customers a truly superior value proposition.

VisionMap’s A3 system empowers mapping companies to collect and process premium digital mapping products in the most cost-effective way on the market. The A3 system is comprised of an aerial camera that can cover a given area approximately three times faster than conventional large-format frame cameras can at a given resolution and a processing system that quickly and accurately processes vast areas. This case study describes how the A3 system can enable an NAIP project in Colorado to be completed in 60% less time and at 50% of the operational cost of a typical project, without compromising image quality or resolution.

The Challenge

A typical statewide NAIP project requires 1m GSD imagery to be acquired in either three bands (RGB) or four bands (RGBN). Data turnaround may be up to 45 days after the end of the flying season. The project has stringent color and contrast requirements, and cloud cover in the area to be acquired may not exceed 10%.

The state of Colorado is 380-miles wide and 280-miles long. A typical digital large-format camera can cover the entire state in about 120 hours of flight, accounting for 30% of a camera’s average annual operating time of 400 hours. As such, acquisition alone can take almost four months, with data processing and turnaround adding another eight months or more. It is not unusual for a typical project to span more than a year before products are delivered to the customer.

The A3 Solution

The highly efficient VisionMap A3 camera can acquire the full area of Colorado in a mere 46 hours of flying, less than 40% of the time required by a typical camera. With 60,000 pixels across track, a flying altitude of 35,000 feet and acquisition velocity of 380 knots, the A3 system can cover the target area quickly and efficiently while delivering ground resolution of 35cm. With required resolution of only 1m, the raw data can be processed into high resolution products without re-flying the area of interest for further savings.

Using the VisionMap A3 LightSpeed system, all Colorado mapping data can be processed in just 23 days, representing just 2.5 processing days for every day of flying, the fastest rate in the industry. Using low-cost, off-the-shelf hardware, A3 LightSpeed can produce RGB or RGBN orthophotos in any required resolution between 35cm-1m as well as processing dense DSM and stereo models for mapping purposes. Processing is highly automated and typically requires just one operator. Outputs may be easily ingested into a variety of legacy photogrammetric suites.


Operational cost reduction. By cutting flying time from four months to ten days and using just one airplane and one camera, the cost of statewide projects can suddenly be made affordable. Fast data turnaround—less than a month rather than the year required by competitive solutions—provided by the automatic processing system further reduces the time to market and cost. A3 requires minimal staff, even for large projects.

Multiple products from a single flight. A3 imagery is processed by A3 LightSpeed into AT, mapping models, DSMs, and orthophotos. RGB/RGBN products are available as well. Producing a variety of products in a single flight reduces cost per product and boosts return on investment. For example, the Colorado flight yielded 1m DSM as well as 35cm GSD orthophotos and allows the client to up-sell additional photogrammetric products.

Independent of a priori data. A3 does not require a DGPS base station or ground control points in order to achieve ~2 pixel RMSE accuracy. The NAIP results can be processed without any survey for control points or deployment of DGPS station, since the 6m horizontal accuracy is easily obtained without any DGPS station or ground controls. Data independence further reduces operational costs and turnaround time.

Versatility. A3 can be deployed on a Learjet in order to cover a large area in 35cm GSD as quickly as possible. Its light weight (~90 pounds), small size, and low power consumption (<160W) also allow it to be deployed on a Cessna 172 or Diamond DA42. This very wide envelope of operation enables it to deliver resolutions ranging from 1inch to 3 ft without FMC constraints.

A3 systems that are operating worldwide have dramatically reduced their operators’ project costs. Processing and turnaround time were significantly reduced by A3 Lightspeed. The unique characteristics and capabilities of the VisionMap A3 system make it an ideal technology for NAIP and similar statewide projects.


VisionMap LLC is a U.S. subsidiary of VisionMap LTD., a leading provider of state-of-the-art mapping systems. The company’s A3 system is a coupled camera and ground processing system that covers extremely large-scale areas and provides accurate high resolution imagery in RGB and NIR bands.

A3’s coverage of 60,000 pixels across track is unmatched by any other camera, and it typically acquires thousands of square miles of images per day. The system’s design allows for flexible operation at altitudes between 3,000 and 30,000 feet (1.5 inch to 1 foot GSD). The A3 LightSpeed processing system turns around raw data quickly, processing thousands of square miles daily. A3’s output products include aerial triangulation, DSM, orthophoto mosaic, and stereo models.

VisionMap’s systems reduce operator costs, enable rapid completion of statewide projects, and increase mapping and surveying project efficiency. VisionMap’s systems are used by two leading U.S. mapping companies, and an additional 20 systems operate worldwide.

Typical applications include NAIP projects, visibility mapping, and high-resolution orthophotos. The flexible A3 camera may be installed on a very wide variety of platforms. A3 LightSpeed can process outputs without controls or DGPS stations for reduced cost and faster turnaround time for rapid response applications.

VisionMap LLC is proud to provide full service support and timely maintenance services to customers in the United States, Canada, and Latin America markets. For more information please contact  

VisionMap LLC
20-B East Main Street, Suite 4
Berryville, VA 22611
Contact: Tim Leary, VP Business Development

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