How Online Maps Are Brought to Life

We take online maps for granted today. When we want to know where something is or how to get there, we go online. But, how do those maps get made?

Microsoft just completed a two year project to take brand new aerial images of the entire United States--something that has never been done before.

Spy-like aerial images once reserved for the government are just a click away.

“It has basically changed the way everyone lives their lives,” said Ben Miller of Keystone Aerial Service.

Onlines maps are ubiquitous in our everyday lives and finding addresses for our destinations are just the beginning Microsoft Bing Map’s Wolfgang Walcher said.

Walcher supervises a high-flying team of experts collecting images for Bing Maps Global Ortho Project.

“Last year alone we did 178 trillion pixels of or 52 times as much as the government,” Walcher said.

Every second this camera is capturing a gig worth of pictures. That’s like taking a hundred pictures on your cell phone every second.

“It’s incredibly advanced,” Miller said. “It’s extremely high resolution imagery tied in with on the fly global positioning satellite information to generate the highest quality product imaginable.”

Over the past several years, low-flying planes have collected crystal clear snapshots of every square inch of the U.S. Which, means what you see on Bing isn’t just a blurry patchwork of random satellite imagery.

Thanks efforts of the Ortho Project team, it’s easy to navigate from our desks.

“Getting a hundred feet in the air to getting a thousand feet in the air just changes your entire perspective,” said Miller.

There were two places the Ortho Team couldn't take pictures of however, Vandenberg Air Force Base and, of course, Area 51.

To see the images for yourself, head to the the Bing Maps Blog.