As imagery is collected from an airborne platform, an individual viewing the images wants to know from where on the Earth the images were collected. To do this, some information about the camera needs to be known, such as its position and orientation relative to the Earth. This can be provided by common inertial navigation systems (INS). Once the location of the camera is known, it is useful to project an image onto some representation of the Earth. Due to the non-smooth terrain of the Earth (mountains, valleys, etc.), this projection is highly non-linear. Thus, to ensure accurate projection, one needs to project onto a digital elevation map (DEM). This allows one to view the images overlaid onto a representation of the Earth.

A code has been developed that takes an image, a model of the camera used to acquire that image, the pose of the camera during acquisition (as provided by an INS), and a DEM, and outputs an image that has been geo-rectified. The world coordinate of the bounds of the image are provided for viewing purposes. The code finds a mapping from points on the ground (DEM) to pixels in the image. By performing this process for all points on the ground, one can “paint” the ground with the image, effectively performing a projection of the image onto the ground. In order to make this process efficient, a method was developed for finding a region of interest (ROI) on the ground to where the image will project.

This code is useful in any scenario involving an aerial imaging platform that moves and rotates over time. Many other applications are possible in processing aerial and satellite imagery.

This work was done by Adnan I. Ansar, Shane Brennan, Daniel S. Clouse, Yang Cheng, Curtis W. Padgett, and David C. Trotz of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Daniel Broderick of the California Institute of Technology at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-46920

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Projection of Stabilized Aerial Imagery Onto Digital Elevation Maps for Geo-Rectified and Jitter-Free Viewing

(reference NPO-46920) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the August, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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