Summary

Interpretation of aerial photographs begins with basic aspects—color, size, shape, pattern, texture, and shadows—combined with scene context and experience of the interpreter. Visual recognition of objects in vertical images normally requires a ground sample distance 3-5 times smaller than the object itself, although other non-spatial factors also may impact interpretability. Atmo spheric effects tend to degrade image quality with increasing height regardless of spatial resolution. SFAP from low height may provide interpretability ratings in the range of 7-9, noticeably higher than conventional airphotos or high-resolution satellite imagery.

Visible color is diagnostic for suspended sediment in water bodies, whereas color-infrared imagery is most appropriate for vegetation. Cultural features tend to display linear and geometric shapes and patterns that contrast with natural objects for both modern urban and rural features as well as prehistoric remains. Subtle crop, soil, and shadow marks may reveal the presence of buried archaeological features. Often, the most interesting information in an image does not reveal itself immediately but rather indirectly by visual clues to the conditions and processes that induce a certain pattern, shape, or color.

For the presented and other applications of SFAP, knowledge of conditions on the ground and familiarity with local human activities are invaluable for improving image interpretation. The scientific benefit arises from the combination of knowledge achieved by conventional field work and the visual information gleaned from SFAP. In monitoring studies, temporal changes of forms and patterns give additional clues. The coupling of ground evidence and interpretation of SFAP may lead to a deeper understanding of the geoscientific processes.

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