Satellite photos and iPhone mapping

If you are like me, you enjoy looking at maps and satellite photos. Today I became aware of two developments in those categories; one is very new, and the other has been around for a while but is new to me.

Google makes high-resolution satellite images of Haiti available

Google announced on Wednesday January 20 that they now have high-resolution (15cm) satellite imagery of the area in Haiti that was damaged by the earthquake. These 15cm satellite photographs are amazing, and are the highest-resolution satellite photos I have ever seen. You can see individual people in the images.

The images were acquired on Sunday January 17 and can be seen on Google Maps as well as Google Earth. The objective of Google was to provide information for relief efforts in Haiti. Some of the images are partially degraded by smoke from fires burning in the city, but most of them are very clear.

Here are some examples of the new satellite photos.

Structural damage
Structural damage
An encampment of survivors
An encampment of survivors
A U.S. Coast Guard C-130 at the airport.
The harbor in Haiti. You can see one of the cranes used for unloading cargo has fallen into the ocean. Cracks in the pavement or ground can bee seen in the upper right.
The harbor in Haiti. You can see that one of the cranes used for unloading cargo has fallen into the ocean. Cracks in the pavement or ground can be seen in the upper right.

The presidential palace can be seen on Google Maps HERE.

EveryTrail, mapping for iPhone and Android cell phones

EveryTrail looks really good on paper, I mean, on their web site. In theory it is supposed to:

  • Map your trip route while you move
  • Add trip photos to your map instantly
  • Share trips right from your phone
  • Find and follow trips from other travelers
Photo: EveryTrail
Photo: EveryTrail

An application like that, in theory, would be very handy for making a quick and dirty map of a fire or a disaster area. You could walk or drive around the incident with your cell phone mapping the perimeter while taking geo-tagged photos, then distribute the information to anyone with access to the Internet. Or a crew could map a spot fire or any additional spread of a fire and send the data back to the Situation Unit, WITH photos.

Versions have been developed for the iPhone and Blackberry, as well as Android and Windows Mobile devices.

I tried it on a Droid phone running the Android operating system and was very much under-whelmed. In fact it is the WORST software program I have ever seen. It crashed when I tried to take a photo. It crashed when I tried to save a trip. You can’t see the map when you are recording a trip. On some of the screens the text is dark gray on a black background, making it very, very difficult to read the text.

The web site promises that a revised Android version “is on the horizon”. I would say don’t waste your money at least until a new version is out, but thankfully it is free. The iPhone version costs $3.99.

Maybe the iPhone version is more mature and works better. They recently came out with Version 3 which gets pretty good reviews in the iTunes store. Earlier versions received poor reviews. The Android version has pretty bad reviews in the Android “Market”.

But apparently some folks have gotten it to work pretty well, or at least good enough to play with it and make drawings.


More information about GPS drawings can be found at the EveryTrail blog, and at the New York Times.

Let me know if you have used EveryTrail, and what your impressions were.

Thanks Judy

UPDATE: Feb. 2, 2010

My Tracks

I found out about another similar mapping application developed by Google, called My Tracks. It works on the Android cell phone operating system and is free. It does not have some of the bells and whistles that EveryTrail, has, but I am thinking that it will at least work. I just downloaded it onto my Motorola Droid, but have not had a chance to use it yet.

Here are some excerpts from the My Tracks site:

With My Tracks you can record GPS tracks and visualize your hiking, running, biking or any other activity while watching live performance statistics. My Tracks makes it easy to archive your training history with Google Docs and Google My Maps, and share your activities with friends and the world.

To share, email, or post your data on the Internet:

After recording a track, press the Options button on the bottom right of the map and then select Share with friends… Select how you want to share the track: a) as a link to a Google My Map (you will be prompted to upload the track to Google My Maps if you have not already done so), b) as a GPX file in an e-mail attachment, or c) as a KML file in an e-mail attachment. You can also send an e-mail with a link to your My Map by going to on your computer. Select the map and then click Link on the right side of the Google Maps web site.

The ability to save the data as a GPX or KML file could be very useful for firefighters who want to send an updated fire perimeter, or fragment thereof, to dispatch or the Situation Unit. And of course posting the map on the Internet could be handy as well. You can designate the posted maps to be visible or invisible to the general public.

As far as I know, the software will not calculate the area of a polygon, but I have sent an email to the developers asking that question.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.