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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2013 / 08 

Enterprise Geographic Information Systems provides community access to statewide aerial imagery

August 13, 2013

timeline showing the same aerial section of the Virginia Tech campus, photographed in 2002, 2007, 2008, and 2011
Virginia's database of aerial imagery makes it easy to see the changes taking place across the Commonwealth. Virginia Tech's GARDEN node will greatly improve access to these detailed images for researchers and developers at Virginia Tech.

Through a partnership between Virginia Tech's Enterprise Geographic Information Systems and the Virginia Geographic Information Network (VGIN), the university and community now has access to a locally-hosted copy of the entire archive of the Virginia Base Mapping Program’s aerial imagery of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The server is available at http://garden.gis.vt.edu, and is available to students, faculty, and the general public.

Virginia Tech is able to provide this resource through VGIN’s Geospatial Archive Resource and Data Exchange Network (GARDEN). 

GARDEN is a federation of universities across the state that serve as “mirror” sites for geospatial data resources produced by VGIN. At present, the primary dataset includes the entire collection of aerial imagery flown through the Virginia Base Mapping Program (VBMP) since 2002. 

Each university in the GARDEN partnership is anticipated to add value with additional layers and data services that reflect particular areas of expertise or interest on the part of their researchers. 

For example, Virginia Tech’s Center for Geospatial Information Technology plans to leverage GARDEN to provide access to a grant-funded statewide digital surface model, in collaboration with VGIN and the Center for Innovative Technology.

“The GARDEN concept is a win-win for Virginia Tech and the Commonwealth of Virginia," said Seth Peery, senior GIS systems architect and technical lead on the GARDEN implementation at Virginia Tech. "Through this program, we gain unencumbered access to the aerial imagery resources used as standard base maps across the academic disciplines. At the same time, we are providing the state a valuable service by maintaining copies of this important data across multiple live sites.”

The new service greatly reduces the amount of effort needed to access recent aerial imagery of the state, a process that until recently still required face-to-face meetings; formal requests; and the upload, transfer, and download of physical copies of data in the form of DVDs. By simplifying access to these quick-loading, seamless, high-resolution data sets, more potential users will be able to make productive use of the latest aerial data than ever before.

Virginia Tech’s server node ended its beta testing period and was publicly launched on April 19, 2013. Users of this system now have direct access to the imagery services, as well as documentation explaining how to incorporate them into both web mapping applications and desktop GIS software clients. 

With this service, aerial imagery can be streamed to GIS clients and web applications on demand, instead of needing to be downloaded first.

For Virginia Tech, having a copy of the state’s aerial imagery is preferable to accessing it through VGIN, or from another university’s GARDEN node, because it removes an external dependency over which the university would have little or no control. By hosting the data in house, the Enterprise GIS division of Virginia Tech IT can ensure high availability and good performance, benefitting research and operational mapping efforts at the university and throughout Virginia.

Virginia Tech joins the College of William & Mary as the second node in GARDEN. Future expansions will bring several additional systems online at other Virginia public universities. 

For more information, email Seth Peery, senior GIS systems architect for Enterprise Geographic Information Systems or call 540-231-2178.

Enterprise Geographic Information Systems provides integrated GIS support to geospatial research, teaching, outreach and administrative functions. The group was formed in 2008 to address the need for storage and hosting of GIS data, and to facilitate access to and training for GIS tools and other resources. Enterprise GIS creates efficiencies of scale and significant cost savings to university departments by leveraging the latest technologies in data hosting and storage, together with dedicated IT management.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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