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March 20, 2007

Mars on Earth

Filed under: Google Earth,GPS — mtbguru @ 2:42 pm

Shall we call this “In-flight Aerial Photo Geotagging”?
Or, how to make your boring ten hour transatlantic flight (slightly) more entertaining, using your GPS and camera.

Devon island

I was lucky to get a window seat on flight KL605 from Amsterdam to San Francisco, and that the weather over the Arctic was fairly clear that day. I had switched on my Garmin Edge 305 early on during the flight but didn’t get reception – two satellites and a reluctant third was all the GPS was seeing.

I tried again hours later, when I saw majestic glaciated fjords and cliffs tens of thousands of feet below me, and yes, this time I got decent reception, so I started tracking and taking photos.

Once home, I created this MTBGuru trip and started finding out what my photos were showing me, using the Google Earth file. Fascinating, the stuff you can learn this way: most of the photos below are of the south shore of Devon Island, Earth’s largest uninhabited island. Its coastline is characterized by steep glaciated cliffs, deep fjords and valleys. The main geographic feature of the island is the Haughton impact crater, in the west part of the island.

And, as the rocky polar desert around the Haughton crater is the closest thing on Earth to what most of the planet Mars looks like, it is also known as Mars on Earth and home of the Mars-Haughton scientific project…

Unfortunately I lost signal again, high above Canada’s Northwest Territories, but I did end up getting about a thousand miles worth of arctic GPS data!

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6 Responses to “Mars on Earth”

  1. Tom Says:

    Speaking about “geotagging”: do you know locr?

    locr offers the ideal solution and makes geotagging exceptionally easy. locr uses GoogleMaps with detailed maps and high-resolution satellite images. To geotag your photos just enter address, let locr search, fine-tune the marker, accept position, and done! If you don’t know the exact address simply use drag&drop to set the position.
    For automatic geotagging you need a datalog GPS receiver in additon to your digital camera. locr reads nmea format files. You will have to cenvert your Gamin file. Then, the GPS receiver data and the digital camera data is automatically linked together by the locr software. All information will be written into the EXIF header.

    With locr you can upload photos with GPS information in them without any further settings. In the standard view, locr shows the photo itself, plus the place it was taken. If you want to know more about the place where the photo was taken, just have at look at the Wikipedia articles which are also automatically assigned to the picture.

    Have a look at http://www.locr.com.

  2. markowe Says:

    Cool idea geotagging from a plane. I am quite new to GPS, and have heard a few people mention using it in a plane. I must admit I would be a bit nervous about using it in the sky. It doesn’t interfere with anything?

    Also, can you even get a fix inside the plane, with only the tiny windows giving any line of sight with the sky?

  3. Tom Says:

    Unlike cell phones, GPS doesn’t transmit anything, it just receives signals from multiple satellites, so I don’t think there’s anything to worry above. Airplanes use GPS systems themselves after all. :-)

  4. markowe Says:

    I guess so! Maybe this question has more to do with my dislike of flying! Perhaps taking the GPS with me next time would help take my mind off it!

    Though I still don’t get how you get a fix through the little window! Or does it pick up a signal through the aircraft body (doubt it?!)

  5. mtbguru Says:

    @Markowe: I have to say that it is hard to get good reception through the window – it worked only for a couple of hours for me, during which I received signal from four satellites – later on two of them dropped out and I lost GPS reception. But newer generations of GPS receiver chips are getting more and more sensitive, so I guess it will get easier.

  6. markowe Says:

    Yes, I was quite surprised at how difficult reception can be – I guess I am used to a cellphone getting reception just about anywhere!

    I went for a ride through the forest the other day and just couldn’t get a fix for miles and miles, the canopy was just too thick. Interesting that it worked better in winter when there were less leaves…

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