Civil Aerial Mapping
"DIY aerial mapping an attractive tool for people and organizations beyond environmental scientists and the traditional cartographic community. Another reason do-it-yourself aerial photography is important is that mapping, like most of the "citizen science" Public Lab makes possible, can be a political act in itself. For some it's a way to counter government aerial surveillance—as one Palestinian activist in Jerusalem put it, "reclaiming the territory above our heads."
Activists have staged workshops worldwide on how to do "civil aerial mapping" as both a way of promoting government and corporate accountability and as a political statement. WeFab, a "maker" education collective in Milan, held such a workshop in May as part of a series of events at the Triennale Milan.
Dr. Ilaria Vanni, a professor at the University of Technology, Sydney, attended the workshop as part of research into the maker movement. She interviewed some of the organizers, including WeFab co-founder Zoe Romano, on behalf of Ars. "'If you look at the city of L'Aquila, destroyed by an earthquake four years ago and left in ruins, despite the Italian government's promises and despite mainstream information, producing an aerial map of the city as it is and publishing it is already a step to circulate correct information," Romano told her.
Here in the US, Long and others in the DIY mapping movement have used the tools to document political protests like those held by the Occupy movement. Long recalled one event in particular in May of 2011 where a balloon beat most forms of aerial surveillance—an Occupy event at University of California-Davis protesting the use of pepper spray against nonviolent protesters on campus. "It was foggy, and helicopters could only fly at 300 to 400 feet above ground. A satellite wouldn't have found the crowd under the clouds," Long recounted. But Long and three others floated a balloon up just below the clouds as the fog started to lift, providing a perfect aerial image of the event that helped capture the scope of the crowd. Organizers now had a tool to counter the campus administration's downplaying of the event's size." ( (http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/12/the-kite-man-cometh-ars-does-diy-open-source-aerial-surveillance/))