New kind of map proving useful
In 2005 Dakota County collaborated with cities including Rosemount to map the county in a new way called pictometry. Three years later Rosemount city staff is still discovering ways to use the innovative technology.
Pictometry combines aerial imaging with a software system to provide information. Instead of taking the photos straight down like most aerial photographs the pictures are taken at an angle, which provides more detailed information.
Instead of just roofs and the tops of trees pictometry users can see the sides of buildings and street signs with the high resolution technology.
"At any point in the county you can look at four different sides," said Randy Knippel, the county geographic information systems director.
Through pictometry, Knippel said, users can measure distances and heights of objects on the ground. Dakota County was the first in the state to use pictometry. Now more than 10 counties use it.
When the county first approached cities three years ago with the technology, Knippel said it was a hard sell. However, earlier this year when the county renewed its contract the program sold itself.
"It's worked out very well with the cities," said Knippel.
Dakota County has a cost share agreement with 11 cities. The $138,000 price tag was split between the county and the cities. Knippel said Rosemount pays $1,400 a year.
Rosemount GIS coordinator Mike Kasel said several Rosemount city offices use the technology weekly, including community development, planning and engineering. The fire and police departments use it too, although not as often.
The big thing about the program, Kasel said, is that it allows city employees to view properties without leaving the office. He added that the program is especially useful for planning.
For example, the community development department used pictometry to help plan downtown redevelopment. The fire and police department used it to create the city's disaster plan.
"We keep finding uses for it," said Kasel. "It's been really nice."
To get the pictures used by the programs planes fly across the county taking pictures. Knippel said when Pictometry, the company that creates the program, flew this year to take pictures it used more than 20 planes.
The planes only have a short window of time to get the photos in the spring because the have to do it while there are no leaves on the trees and no snow on the ground. Knippel said photographs are taken every other year so the program stays up to date.
For those with conspiracy theories on the mind about the government watching, Kasel said it's not that high tech.
"They aren't spy planes," quipped Kasel.
The program is fairly easy to use. Kasel said anyone familiar with Google maps could use it. Residents can check out the technology for themselves at Dakota County's web site, www.co.dakota.mn.us.