Aerial Photography vs Satellite Imagery: What's the Difference?

When it comes to capturing images of the Earth from above, there are two main methods: aerial photography and satellite imagery. While both provide a view of the ground and its features and objects from above, there are some key differences between the two. Satellite images are taken from a much higher altitude than aerial photography, making them ideal for large scale scientific operations. They cover a wider area and have larger-scale scientific applications.

On the other hand, aerial images are taken at a lower altitude and thus cover a smaller amount of area, making them better suited for smaller-scale applications such as advertising and marketing. The quality of the frames also differs between satellite and aerial photography. Spatial images can have an even higher resolution because they use fully digital equipment, while aerial photography depends less on cloud cover since it can be taken from a lower height. In addition, satellite images cover a larger area and it takes less time to create a complete map than aerial imagery.

However, aerial photography can be more accurate than satellite imagery because it creates the map closer to the real scale, making it more recognizable than a satellite image.

Satellite Images for Weather Measurement

Since the early 1970s, satellite images have been used for weather measurement and storm tracking due to their ability to provide a large scale view of an entire weather front. Aerial photographs of the Earth allow us to better identify and mitigate changes over time on a smaller scale. Since aerial photography is based on the use of aircraft controlled by a pilot, it is generally taken at much lower altitudes, ranging from a few hundred feet for drones to 30,000 feet for airplanes.

Aerial Photography for Accurate Mapping

Aerial photography consists of photographing an area from a height of hundreds of meters to tens of kilometers using an aerial camera mounted on an aircraft (airplane, helicopter, airship, drone). This type of aerial photography reproduces colors as seen by the human eye and is an excellent base layer for land planning and creating ground maps. Aerial and satellite images, known as remote sensing images, allow accurate mapping of land cover and make landscape features comprehensible on a regional, continental and even global scale.

Various techniques can also be used to geometrically correct aerial photographs and allow for more complete mapping, such as that used in GPS systems.

Affordable Aerial Photography

In addition, because it uses readily available resources such as drones and airplanes, aerial photography is much more affordable for the average customer making it a perfect choice for marketing materials and other individual uses. This is because satellites orbit the Earth and have global coverage while aerial data providers carry out survey campaigns in specific areas they serve. Anyone who wants to start using aerial imagery, from pilots studying areas in crisis to cartographers who track local regions, can do so through the community database.