Landcare Aviation, Inc. (LAI), based at Griffiss Airfield in Rome, New York, was founded in late 1991 by Al Stringham, taking over the aerial photography business of Land Care, Inc. Starting with a single rented Cessna 172 in the mid 1980’s, LAI flight operations have expanded steadily to one of the largest aerial imaging operations in the United States and has employed over three hundred pilots.
Landcare Aviation, Inc.’s predecessor, Land Care, Inc., built the first LORAN-ACCUPHOTO based system in the mid-1980s. The system was used to fire a camera on pre-programmed points. (The LORAN-ACCUPHOTO was developed as a means to provide cost effective methods for agricultural crop compliance programs.) The technology was transferred to Genisys Comm, Inc. (later Genisys Inc. R&D of Utica, NY) who further developed and marketed, worldwide, a satellite based GPS-ACCUPHOTO flight management system that Landcare Aviation, Inc. still uses today.
During 1991, when information about Kodak’s PhotoCD development started to appear in technical and trade journals, Landcare Aviation decided it would be an excellent medium for 35-mm aerial photos. During 1992 Landcare Aviation, Inc. teamed with the Qualex PhotoCD Group (later to become DIGIX IMAGING) to put our coverage of 20 upstate New York Counties on PhotoCD. At the time it was the largest collection of PhotoCD’s in the world and unique since it was aerial imagery. Several clients purchased complete PhotoCD coverage for large areas of interest to them and realized the benefits of the PhotoCD medium.
Landcare Aviation, Inc. pioneered the use of archiving 35-mm aerial imagery in digital form onto Kodak PhotoCD. (Through special arrangements, this was prior to Kodak’s formal introduction to the commercial market of the PhotoCD.)
LAI operations have grown steadily throughout the years. During 1996, up to ten aircraft and crews were simultaneously operating in four states. During 1997, up to fifteen aircraft and crews were operating in 25 states.Now, LAI currently has a fleet of twenty-four aircraft operating throughout 48 states and Canada.
Oneida County Photo Coverage
LAI flew stereo photography and provided photo services on several projects requiring leaf off stereo coverage of Oneida County, New York (Spring 1991), as well as special Spring 1993 coverage for much of Oneida and portions of Clinton County. All photography was flown and plotted using LORAN-ACCUPHOTO in-flight sensor control.
Rome Laboratory / Fort Drum Photo Coverage
LAI flew coverage over military activities to correspond with a USAF program. LAI was required to cover the planned area within a 30-second data/time window so that photography would correspond with other operations. This project was flown numerous times during 1992. In addition, LAI provided coverage, on PhotoCD, for military operations/planning of “Global Yankee” in the Fort Drum operating area. All imagery was geo-referenced using GPS-ACCUPHOTO.
Madison County, Oneida/Herkimer County Solid Waste Management Authority
In 1992, Madison County and the Oneida/Herkimer County Solid Waste Management Authority were among the first clients to purchase block coverage on a county wide basis that was available on PhotoCD. In addition to planning purposes, the Waste Management Authority used the photos to evaluate new landfill sites in the counties that were purchased.
Oneida County 911
As a subcontractor to RAM Communications, LAI has flown all of Oneida County, New York at altitudes of 4000 and 6500 feet. RAM Communications was the first client which specifically requested the aerial photos be provided on PhotoCD. LAI also ran ground-truth collections on all roads in the county using differential GPS. Approximately 30 hours of flying time were spent in the imagery collection, and 400 hours spent on ground-based GPS collection of the county. All imagery collected was transferred to PhotoCD.
New York City Metropolitan Transportation Council Aerial Traffic Surveys
Landcare Aviation, Inc. provided data collection through aerial photography for transportation studies over the New York City Metropolitan area for several years in the mid-1990’s using multiple Cessna 172’s and airborne systems. Pairs of photos were taken over each sample site during specific time windows. 400 sample sites were photographed along 2000 miles of roadway, intersections, and arterials. The photos were taken using a GPS-ACCUPHOTO system (with software that was specifically modified by GENISYS of Utica, NY.) The system fired the camera on pre-programmed points 1000 feet apart. GPS data, position and time were recorded to .01 seconds. The images were provided in digital form on Kodak PhotoCD to PAR Government Systems. The images were imported into a UNIX based GIS (Geographical Information System) which allows for traffic flow rates, speed calculations, and traffic models.
Miami Valley Transportation Council Aerial Traffic Surveys
Landcare Aviation, Inc. provided data collection through aerial photography for transportation studies over the Dayton Ohio Metropolitan area. Operations required placing several crews near the site and using aircraft (Cessna 172’s) equipped with GPS-ACCUPHOTO systems. Pairs of photos and individual photos were taken over each sample site along pre-programmed points. The system fired the camera on pre-programmed points 1000 feet apart and on individual intersection sites during specific time windows. GPS data, position and time were recorded to .01 seconds. The images were provided in digital form on Kodak PhotoCD to PAR Government Systems. The images were imported into a UNIX based GIS (Geographical Information System) which allowed for traffic flow rates, speed calculations, and traffic models. The tasks were very similar to the traffic surveys over New York City and required remotely basing several crews and carrying out multiple aircraft operations.
NASA (National Aeronautic & Space Administration) Goddard Space Flight Center
During February of 1997, Landcare Aviation coordinated with NASA to provide aerial imagery using a film based GPS-ACCUPHOTO system. This particular mission had to coincide during a specific time window with the ER-2 (an updated version of the U-2 plane) during a limited time window. Aerial images were collected during the ER-2 overflight. LAI provided the aerial images on PhotoCD7 along with critical in flight data recording to geo-reference each image.
Oswego County Real Property Services
Landcare Aviation, Inc. provided leaf off color imagery for Oswego County, NY in the spring of 1997 at an altitude of 7500 feet. LAI flew the photography using the GPS-ACCUPHOTO system and 35-mm camera systems. This project required recording the position data of the aircraft at the time of exposure and delivery to the client so that it can be viewed in ArcView. All imagery collected was transferred to PhotoCD at the request of the client.
USDA Agriculture and Conservation Service Crop Compliance
Landcare Aviation, Inc. (LAI) flew aerial photography for the USDA Agriculture and Conservation Service (ASCS, now FSA) for approximately twenty years until the USDA began using large format mapping equipment in 2004. Target sites included 28 counties in New York State in 1995; rising in 1996, to 34 counties in New York State, 7 counties in Pennsylvania, and 5 counties in Vermont. LAI flew the photography using the GPS-ACCUPHOTO system and 35-mm camera systems, and collected ASCS imagery at an altitude of 9500 feet. This particular project required coordination of multiple aircraft, crews and GPS-ACCUPHOTO systems.
Emerge / E-spatial / Litton-TASC
In December 1996, Landcare Aviation, Inc. started working with Emerge on a precision agriculture effort to operate eight Cessna 172 aircraft equipped with digital aerial imaging systems. In addition both twin engine Piper Aztecs owned and operated by LAI carried the LITTON/EMERGE sensor. The system (developed by TASC) was capable of capturing color or color infrared digital aerial images. All data and images collected were geo-referenced, rectified, and mosaicked using in-flight data recorded at the time of exposure. Normal turn around time for deliverables was 48 hours to 72 hours from the time of collection. One LAI Piper Aztec mapped Hawaii for an EMERGE contract with USDA.Growers that subscribed to the service provided coordinates of field boundaries and elevation data for the area of interest to be flown at regular intervals. The data was provided to LAI in the form of drawing exchange format (*.dxf) files along with an Excel Spreadsheet of elevation data. Using software developed by Genisys Inc. R&D of Utica, NY, the data was imported and a flight plan generated for each site and then transferred electronically (direct computer connection or e-mail) to the pilot in the field. Flight plans and field locations (plotted in ArcView) were provided in less than 24 hours to the pilot.
Precision agricultural flights were initially a large portion of work using the color infrared feature of the digital imaging system. Normal image collection was at one foot resolution. The system was ideally suited for collection of areas that may have been damaged or for those applications that require low turn around time of data. Later applications included forestry, pipeline and powerline rights-of-way, watersheds, and various projects for military and government agencies, including mapping a huge portion of southern California for the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).
New York Power Authority (NYPA) Imagery Data Collections
Using the color feature on the digital aerial imaging system, LAI and Emerge provided ArcView compatible, geo-referenced, rectified images on CD at one foot pixel resolution. The images were used for vegetation assessment and management.Powerline identifiers were provided by NYPA to LAI along with state plane coordinates in a text format. LAI translated those coordinates into latitude / longitude spreadsheet coordinates and directly imported them into the flight planning software developed by Genisys Inc. R&D. LAI collected the imagery and provided NYPA with the original tower identifiers along with coordinates in UTM, State Plane, and Lat/Lon.
LAI has flown several projects for the New York Power Authority, using a film based GPS-ACCUPHOTO system, including the Powerline right-of-way from Marcy to Fitzpatrick Power Plant on Lake Ontario and West Canada Creek from Hinckley Dam to the Mohawk River. West Canada Creek was flown at high water during spring 1993 and the photography was used to prepare evacuation plans in the event of a break in the power dams at Hinckley Lake. All imagery was provided to NYPA in digital form on PhotoCD. LAI has worked with NYPA staff to make the imagery collected compatible with the Power Authority’s ARC/INFO GIS System running on an IBM RS 6000 workstation. LAI also provided NYPA with a PhotoCD player so that imagery could be reviewed on a standard television set. All datawas geo-referenced from in-flight GPS-ACCUPHOTO data.
Diego Garcia Mapping Project
In 2003, in conjunction with Emerge and LJT Associates, Landcare Aviation mapped the entire island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean for the U.S. Air Force. A Cessna 172 was disassembled, shipped to the island and reassembled by one of LAI’s A&P’s for the project, which was flown by an LAI pilot.
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)
Starting in 1998 LAI has flown various research projects with a Piper Aztec for RIT’s imaging spectrometer, the Modular Imaging Spectrometer Instrument (MISI). MISI is a hyperspectral scanner used to acquire data for algorithm development and evaluation for reconnaissance and environmental application; earth observation research; aircraft and satellite sensor performance evaluation; and other applications. Some RIT flights were scheduled to underfly satellite sensors (LandSat 7) and NASA ER-2 high altitude coverage required precision timing and coordination. More recently, LAI is also flying RIT’s multispectral system, the Wildfire Airborne Sensor Program (WASP). In 2005, the system was deployed to Montana for the Forest Service for use in near real time data collection on forest fires (the data was downloaded and used immediately after landing). Originally developed for wildfire detection and analysis, WASP is being used as a test bed for a variety of full spectrum, multispectral mapping applications, with live datalink capability in development.
Pictometry (EagleView) International
In October 2000, Landcare Aviation began working with Pictometry (EagleView) to deploy their unique digital oblique aerial photography system, which, through a sophisticated, integrated information system, supplies users with high-resolution images from multiple viewpoints. Beginning with two Cessna 172 aircraft in October 2000, LAI currently supports Pictometry’s nationwide operations with a fleet of Cessna 172’s and Piper Aztecs which are modified specifically to Pictometry’s unique system requirements. Pictometry’s product requires operating to a large degree over highly populated areas, inside the busiest airspace in the nation, and often within restricted airspace. Notable projects that LAI has been involved in for Pictometry include coverage of Alaska, New York City after 9-11 and of the majority of the Washington, DC area every year since 2005. LAI has provided coverage of the entire state of Massachusetts, Delaware and Rhode Island during the brief window free of both snowcover and leaves, and continues to support Pictometry’s requirements throughout the U.S. and Canada.