How much area does an aerial photograph cover?

The area covered by an aerial photograph (air photo) depends on the scale of the imagery. Most air photos were taken on 9 x 9 inch film. The chart below reflects coverage for a variety of photographic scales.

Scale 1 inch = feet 1 side (miles) Area (square miles)
1:12,000 1000 1.70 2.9
1:20,000 1667 2.84 8.1
1:24,000 2000 3.41 11.6
1:40,000 3333 5.68 32.3
1:58,000 4833 8.23 67.73
1:63,360 5280 9.00 81.00
1:80,000 6667 11.36 129.1
1:100,000 8333 14.20 201.6

Note: The photo scale is determined by dividing the flying height by the camera focal length.

Example: If the flying height is 20,000 feet and the camera focal length is 6 inches, then:

     20,000 feet ÷ 0.5 feet = 40,000 scale or 1:40,000

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Will I be able to see my house in an aerial photograph? Will enlarging the image let me see more detail?

The ability to see specific items in an aerial image is mostly a function of scale and resolution. The following aerial photography products all have a resolution of 1 meter or better, so you should be able to see an object the size of a house: High Resolution Orthoimagery (HRO) National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) imagery Digital...

What is a digital orthophoto quadrangle (DOQ) or orthoimage?

A digital orthophoto quadrangle (DOQ)--or any orthoimage--is a computer-generated image of an aerial photograph in which displacements (distortions) caused by terrain relief and camera tilts have been removed. It combines the image characteristics of a photograph with the geometric qualities of a map. Unlike an aerial photograph, an orthoimage has...

Are the scanned aerial photographic images georectified?

Scans of traditional aerial photography film products (air photos) are not georectified . The USGS does, however, offer several orthoimagery (georectified aerial photograph) products: Digital Orthophoto Quadrangle (DOQ) High Resolution Orthoimagery (HRO) National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP, NAIP Plus) NAIP orthoimagery has been collected...

How do I download orthoimagery products and what are the available formats?

Download orthoimagery (georectified aerial photographs) using EarthExplorer , which has the full catalog of USGS orthoimagery and aerial photography, or The National Map download client , which has NAIP orthoimagery only. EarthExplorer : Products Overview Format varies by type of orthoimagery: Native format, Georeferenced Tagged Image File Format...

Is there a cost for aerial photograph products?

Download medium-resolution scans (400 dpi) of aerial photography products at no charge using EarthExplorer . We are working on high-resolution scans (25 micron or 1,000 dpi) that can also be downloaded at no charge. With over 8.4 million frames of imagery in our archive, scanning will take many years to complete, but about 80% of high-resolution...
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Date published: October 21, 2019

Aerial Photo Scan Reveals Rare Image of Two Airplanes in Flight

Every work day at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, contractor Mike Austad pulls up a chair and begins scanning aerial photographs of the Earth’s surface into the massive public database that is EarthExplorer.

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Filter Total Items: 8
National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP)
July 2, 2011

National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP)

A full NAIP scene (top) along with a close-up of the landscape detail from this 2011 tile near Waitsburg, Washington.

Annotated aerial photograph showing pre- and post-restoration Big Spring Run channel, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
November 16, 2008

Aerial photograph of Big Spring Run, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Aerial photograph in the prerestoration period at Big Spring Run, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Parallel blue lines represent the final stream channel placement (postrestoration) and red boundary line represents sediment removal site excavation limit (Michael Rahnis, Franklin and Marshall College, written commun., November 16, 2008). This is a detail cut out of Figure 2

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Image: Photogrammetric Aerial Photo of Fault
October 1, 1999

Photogrammetric Aerial Photo of Fault

Lavic Lake fault extending through the Bullion Mountains. The fault takes a 30 degree turn near the bottom of the photo where fault splays can be seen and then coalesces again after the bend.

National Aerial Photography Program (NAPP) BW
March 4, 1995

National Aerial Photography Program (NAPP) BW

The NAPP collection includes black-and-white aerial photographs at a scale of 1:20,000 as depicted by this March 4, 1995 image of Boston, Massachusetts.

Aerial Photo Single Frames B/W, Color, CIR
December 31, 1974

Aerial Photo Single Frames B/W, Color, CIR

The Single Frame Records collection includes black-and-white, natural color, and color infrared aerial photographs as depicted by these images of the Napa River Bridge in Vallejo, California.

Images from HDDS Explorer

Images from HDDS Explorer

Various images from HDDS Explorer including a cyclone, fire, flood, tornado, earthquake, and volcano

High Resolution Orthoimagery

High Resolution Orthoimagery

USGS High Resolution Orthoimagery for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands