Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Eye in the Sky

A couple of days ago, Jeff Fobes at the Mountain Xpress alerted us to a news story that is unlikely to receive the attention it deserves. Fobes reports:

This winter, planes will crisscross the entire state of North Carolina, photographing virtually every half-foot of the land and its features. The goal: Produce photo-maps of unmatched detail, as part of the state’s 911 emergency-readiness program.

“You will be able to make out individual branches on the trees,” said N.C. forester Andrew D. Bailey.

The project, Bailey noted, will allow 911 offices to map buildings and structures that cannot be seen in older coarse-resolution, or “leaf-on,” photography. The last statewide “leaf-off” aerial photography was much coarser (2-meter) resolution, conducted in 1998.

For a connoisseur of cartography, this is thrilling news. I spend several evenings a month poring over maps, and can hardly wait to see North Carolina in even greater detail. Google Earth just doesn’t provide the high resolution I need for some of my ongoing projects, such as looking for vulnerable spots in the hydroelectric dams of Western North Carolina.

Forester Bailey agrees that the new maps will be of interest to many different users:

“While emergency response is the primary funding driver here, this imagery will be used by lots of state and local agencies, including conservation agencies such as the state Forest Service and [local divisions] of parks and recreation.”

The potential of this thing is limitless! To make the most of their flyovers, the mappers could incorporate related technologies such as thermal imaging and spectrographic analysis.

Why not?

This story, I should warn you, is about to take a turn that many readers will find disturbing. I can hear it already.

“There he goes with that old conspiracy theory stuff again.”

Rumors of my paranoia are greatly exaggerated. As a matter of fact, I don’t wear my tin-foil hat anymore...except for when the black helicopters make their nightly sortees over my home.

So there!

Who says I’m not qualified to express an opinion about warrantless searches and infringements on the Fourth Amendment?

As we concluded just the other day, unless you’re doing something that you shouldn’t be doing, then you have nothing to worry about from these mapmakers. Right?

Dateline Baltimore:

The Baltimore housing department has a new tool to find homeowners who have been building rooftop decks without a permit: aerial mapping. Baltimore bought aerial photographs of the entire city and used software to correlate the images with databases of address information and permit records. Inspectors have just begun knocking on doors of residents who built decks without permission.

However, if you think something like couldn't happen in North Carolina, you need to read the rest of the Fobes report:

Each North Carolina county will receive, at no charge, a copy of the orthophotography data for use in any capacity it deems appropriate. The data will also be available for distribution as part of the NC OneMap statewide data resource.

Any capacity it deems appropriate? That’s what I call “bang for the buck.” What’ll they think of next to put this data to good use? Ferreting out moonshine stills and marijuana grow rooms? What about the ol’ boys who raise game roosters? You can’t tell me they keep those birds around to hear ‘em sing. This new high-res map should allow us to get a doggone accurate census of game roosters in every county of the state. And you know those people with the gamers are up to no good.

What about those unfortunate counties that call themselves home to one or more “white supremacist compounds” (or for that matter, “black” or “green” or “purple” supremacist compounds)? What vigilant sheriff wouldn’t want to study the maps revealing just what it is that’s squirreled away inside those compounds?

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches but, tell me, what’s reasonable and what’s not? The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that airborne persons snooping on your backyard aren’t necessarily invading your privacy and aren’t necessarily violating the Fourth Amendment. But like we said before, unless you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing you don’t need to fret over a bunch of legal technicalities and constitutional mumbo-jumbo.

Oh well.

Let’s not end on a sour note.

The leaves are still on the trees, which means we still have time to prepare for this winter’s flyover by state officials. With the detailed resolution they’re talking about, it shouldn’t be difficult to make it onto the map in a meaningful and lasting way.

I thought about going down to my pasture and creating a message to greet the airborne snoops. Perhaps something short and to-the-point like:

F*** OFF

But that lacks imagination and subtlety.

Maybe I should create a huge kokopelli in my field. At the very least, the state archaeologist would salivate over the mysterious land art appearing in Jackson County and “visible ONLY from the air.”

Or like any enterprising 21st century American, I could go for the fast buck. Once these maps are completed, they’ll be around for a long time, and lots of people will be viewing them. I have a field that would be plenty big enough for a corporate logo or other advertisement. For a reasonable fee, of course.

So if you’d like to get YOUR message on the map, don’t delay, call me today. The eye in the sky will be here soon.


Anonymous said...

I will help you arrange the rocks
F*** OFF

Anonymous said...

Rather than a printed message, why not give them the real thing and in the process demonstrate what friendly people we have here in Jackson County. Let's satisfy the state's voyeurs, I propose the Great Jackson County F**K OFF. On the day of the flyover take someone you love outside and get naked and friendly. Of course we run the risk of perhaps catching a few people practicing animal husbandry or lonely knothole love but even those folks would be a demonstration that Jackson County folks are not the hateful neighbors that some in the development industry have called us. No, we could be known as the most demonstrably friendly county in NC - aerial category.
As Bonnie Raitt might sing: Let's Give em Something to talk about.

GULAHIYI said...

Perhaps the possibility of just such a thing is why they scheduled the flyover for WINTER.

Anonymous said...

Oh come now Gulahiyi, don't tell me you're afraid of a little cold. Red rosy cheeks, blue balls and maybe some white background - Jackson County show your Patriotic Colors while giving Big Brother his money's worth.

Western North Carolina Writer's Underground said...

Just the state's F-troop wannabes infringing more on our unalienable rights. Use surplus camouflage netting and darkened reflectorized space blanket material under it--breaks the shine and the outline!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Gee, you're no fun. I would like to know what Mucklefutz said. I can just imagine.

At any rate, this is more of Big Brother spying on us. How far will we let this go?

Clearly, this is not a case of Google mapping. Why heck, they can't even spell the name of a lot of the streets, much less get them right. I'll stick to my trusty map and leave the GPSers to enjoy their inaccurate technology.

Either way, I'm with Mucklefutz. Let's have some fun with this:)

GULAHIYI said...

No, I didn't censor it, Mucklefutz retracted it, but it couldn't have been that bad. That leaves both of us guessing.