Slide Menu
Maintenance Notice: Tuesday, May 30 @ 2-3:30pm Eastern. InPort and its associated services will be under maintenance and unavailable for the deployment of InPort Release 5.2.6. Downtime Schedule Tuesday, May 30, 2023 2:00pm - 3:30pm Eastern / 10:00am - 11:30am Pacific / 8:00am - 9:30am Hawaii Impacted Areas - InPort Website: - InPort WAF: https...
View All
Search Help Show/Hide Menu
Short Citation:
National Geodetic Survey, 2023: NOAA's Coastal Aerial Photography,

Item Identification

Title: NOAA's Coastal Aerial Photography
Short Name: photo
Status: In Work
Publication Date: 2012

One of the primary missions of the National Ocean Service (NOS) and its predecessor agencies has been to accurately survey the coast of the United States. Beginning in the late 1930's, metric aerial photographs have become the primary source material for coastal survey maps and digital cartographic feature files. Photographic surveys replaced plane table field surveys because they could be completed faster and less expensively. The metric-quality vertical aerial photographs are acquired by the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) and their contractors and are maintained by the NGS. These photographs are used for a variety of geo-positioning application including shoreline delineation, marine planning, mapping water depths, topographic mapping, mapping seabed characteristics, and locating features or obstructions to ensure the safety of marine and air navigation. NGS's area of photogrammetric responsibilities includes all coastal regions, including the Great Lakes and their connecting navigable waterways. This represents approximately 95,000 miles of shoreline. NGS maintains a library of all vertical aerial photographic surveys of the coast dating back to1945 1942. There are currently over 500,000 photographs in the library with additional photographs being acquired each year. All photographs are available to the public for purchase.


Vertical aerial photographs of the United States coastline were obtained as the primary source material for coastal survey maps. Vertical aerial photographs have the advantage over coastal survey maps of capturing everything in that instant and have been utilized for a wide variety of other purposes including mapping water depths, topographic mapping, waterfront development, natural resource identification, and locating navigational hazards.



Supplemental Information:

Hardcopy prints of any of the imagery can be ordered from the National Geodetic Survey (NGS). Any of the images can be scanned to special order at resolutions from 100 dpi to 1016 dpi.


Theme Keywords

Thesaurus Keyword
ISO 19115 Topic Category
NOS Data Explorer Topic Category Remotely Sensed Imagery/Photos
None coastal
None coastal survey
None color negative film
None color positive film
None digital
None oceans
None photo
None photograph
None photographs
None photos
None shoreline
None vertical aerial photography

Spatial Keywords

Thesaurus Keyword
None coastal regions
None connecting navigable waterways
None U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone
None United States

Physical Location

Organization: National Geodetic Survey
City: Silver Spring
State/Province: MD

Data Set Information

Data Set Scope Code: Data Set
Maintenance Frequency: Continually
Data Presentation Form: remote-sensing image
Distribution Liability:

Orders are usually filled within 30 days. Photo reproductions (prints, film positives, and negatives) are custom processed and cannot be returned for credit or refund. This includes customer-misordered reproductions.

Support Roles

Data Steward

CC ID: 490841
Date Effective From: 2012
Date Effective To:
Contact (Organization): NGS Communications and Outreach Branch
Email Address:
Phone: (301) 713-3242
Fax: (301) 713-4172


CC ID: 490843
Date Effective From: 2012
Date Effective To:
Contact (Organization): NGS Communications and Outreach Branch
Email Address:
Phone: (301) 713-3242
Fax: (301) 713-4172

Metadata Contact

CC ID: 490844
Date Effective From: 2012
Date Effective To:
Contact (Organization): NGS Communications and Outreach Branch
Email Address:
Phone: (301) 713-3242
Fax: (301) 713-4172

Point of Contact

CC ID: 490842
Date Effective From: 2012
Date Effective To:
Contact (Organization): NGS Communications and Outreach Branch
Email Address:
Phone: (301) 713-3242
Fax: (301) 713-4172


Currentness Reference: Publication Date

Extent Group 1

Extent Group 1 / Geographic Area 1

CC ID: 490847
W° Bound: -178.22
E° Bound: -65.17
N° Bound: 71.49
S° Bound: 17.52

Extent Group 1 / Time Frame 1

CC ID: 490846
Time Frame Type: Continuing
Start: 1942

Access Information

Security Class: Unclassified
Data Access Procedure:

Digital copies of photographs can be scanned at varying resolutions (100 dpi to 1016 dpi) and burned onto a CD or DVD. Digital Imagery (Black & White) - 2 exposures to 645 exposures per CD depending on scanned resolution. Digital Imagery (Color) - 2 exposures to 215 per CD exposures depending on scanned resolution.; Please describe the area of interest by latitude and longitude, a detailed description or sketch, or by the photograph number.;

Data Access Constraints:


Data Use Constraints:

These photographs were obtained for use by NGS during the course of its development of potential final products to fulfill its statutory mission. Although NGS is making these photographs available to others who may find the photographs of value, NGS does not warrant, endorse, or recommend the use of these photographs for any given purpose. NGS is providing these photographs "as is," and NGS disclaims any and all warranties, whether expressed or implied, including (without limitation) any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. In no event will NGS be liable to you or any third party for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, special, or exemplary damages or lost profits resulting from any use or misuse of these data.



CC ID: 490840
URL Type:
Online Resource

Activity Log

Activity Log 1

CC ID: 490867
Activity Date/Time: 2012-01-26

Date that the source FGDC record was last modified.

Activity Log 2

CC ID: 490866
Activity Date/Time: 2017-04-05

Converted from FGDC Content Standards for Digital Geospatial Metadata (version FGDC-STD-001-1998) using '' script. Contact Tyler Christensen (NOS) for details.

Activity Log 3

CC ID: 717077
Activity Date/Time: 2018-02-08

Partial upload of Positional Accuracy fields only.

Data Quality

Horizontal Positional Accuracy:

The primary aerial photographic product is a 9x9 inch photograph which is usually exposed at scales ranging from 1:10,000 to 1:50,000, varying slightly due to shrinkage or expansion of the paper due to atmospheric conditions, slight variations in the altitude of the plane during flying, tip and tilt of the airplane, camera optics, and the effects of ground relief.Over the years, the image resolution capabilities and spectral quality of aerial films have advanced, and so have camera systems, photogrammetric instruments, and processes. These photographs are of metric quality for mapping purposes; they overlap 60% along a strip, which allows coverage to be views in stereo and precise photogrammetric measurements to be made in order to locate features accurately.To reduce errors in measurements due to the quality of the photographs each photograph needs to be examined to see if it meets the study needs. Sixty-percent overlap between photographs allows for a seamless coverage of the study area even if photographs are removed. The most current photogrammetric processing techniques need to be used. Documenting the process used to minimize the effects due to scale variations and optical distortions allows the user of the data obtained from photographs to determine its accuracy.

Completeness Report:

The photographs adequately represented ground truth at the time they were obtained. These photographs have not been processed to reduce the errors inherent in the photogrammetric technique.

Conceptual Consistency:

These photographs are being presented "as is". They have undergone no processing to reduce the errors that are inherent in the photogrammetric techniques. These photographs should be assumed to have errors due to scale variation and optical distortions.


Process Steps

Process Step 1

CC ID: 490838

The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) maintains a library of all aerial photographic film associated with surveys of the coast dating back to 1942. There are over 500,000 coastal photographs in the library, Photography cycles vary depending on the survey requirements and the amount of change caused by cultural or natural forces. Over one-third New and recurring photographic surveys are conducted yearly. Photography is acquired when weather conditions, sun angle, and, when applicable, water levels are optimal to ensure that photographs will be suitable for a variety of purposes using standard photogrammetric techniques. Of the 500,000 coastal aerial photographs in the NGS library approximately 17,000 have been scanned. The images are rotated to the closest 90 degrees to true north of the compass heading of the aircraft at the time of photography. The images are then scanned directly from the negative at 100 dpi. *****

Catalog Details

Catalog Item ID: 39951
GUID: gov.noaa.nmfs.inport:39951
Metadata Record Created By: Tyler Christensen
Metadata Record Created: 2017-04-05 13:08+0000
Metadata Record Last Modified By: SysAdmin InPortAdmin
Metadata Record Last Modified: 2023-05-30 18:09+0000
Metadata Record Published: 2018-02-08
Owner Org: NGS
Metadata Publication Status: Published Externally
Do Not Publish?: N
Metadata Last Review Date: 2018-02-08
Metadata Review Frequency: 1 Year
Metadata Next Review Date: 2019-02-08