The Legal Aspect
of Aerial Imagery in GIS
Soon after the invention of the portable camera in the mid-19th century, aerial photography began being used, although its effectiveness greatly increased with airplanes in the 20th century. “Photogrammetry, the science of measuring geometry from images, was well-developed by the early 1930s, and there have been continuous refinements since.” Today, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a program called the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) which acquires imagery during the typical growing seasons across the Continental United States.
On May 19, 1986, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision on a case that had impact on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and a cartographer's ability to use aerial imagery for map making. The case was Dow Chemical Company v. United States where Dow Chemical had filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency, who had used aerial photography as a monitoring device against Dow.
This article investigates the impact of this case on GIS. To more fully explore this topic, it is first necessary to look at the case being discussed. Then it will be possible to explore the topic more fully. It is only after the topic has been explored that conclusions and predictions can be made.
II. Dow Chemical Co. V United States
This case was heard by the United States Supreme Court in 1986. Dow Chemical was the plaintiff and the United States the defendant. Dow Chemical operates a two thousand acre plant in Midland, Michigan. There are numerous buildings, pipes, and conduits that are visible from the air. Dow maintains extremely tight ground security that stops any ground-level public views of the facility. It also investigates any low level aircraft flyovers of the facility. However, Dow does not conceal all its grounds from aerial view. Dow...
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