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Fact Sheet 2009–3055

The National Map—Orthoimagery

By James Mauck, Kim Brown, and William J. Carswell Jr.

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Orthorectified digital aerial photographs and satellite images of 1-meter (m) pixel resolution or finer make up the orthoimagery component of The National Map. The process of orthorectification removes feature displacements and scale variations caused by terrain relief and sensor geometry. The result is a combination of the image characteristics of an aerial photograph or satellite image and the geometric qualities of a map. These attributes allow users to:

  • Measure distance
  • Calculate areas
  • Determine shapes of features
  • Calculate directions
  • Determine accurate coordinates
  • Determine land cover and use
  • Perform change detection
  • Update maps

The standard digital orthoimage is a 1-m or finer resolution, natural color or color infra-red product. Most are now produced as GeoTIFFs and accompanied by a Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC)-compliant metadata file. The primary source for 1-m data is the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) leaf-on imagery. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) utilizes NAIP imagery as the image layer on its "Digital- Map"—a new generation of USGS topographic maps ( However, many Federal, State, and local governments and organizations require finer resolutions to meet a myriad of needs. Most of these images are leaf-off, natural-color products at resolutions of 1-foot (ft) or finer.

Reprinted April 2010

First Posted July 10, 2009

For additional information contact:
National Geospatial Technical Operations Center
U.S. Geological Survey

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Suggested citation:

Mauck, J., Brown, K., Carswell Jr., W.J., 2009, The National Map—Orthoimagery: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2009-3055, 4 p.

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