Cartographic aerial cameras continue to play the key role in producing quality products for the aerial photography business, and specifically for the National Aerial Photography Program (NAPP). One NAPP photograph taken with cameras capable of 39 lp/mm system resolution can contain the equivalent of 432 million pixels at 11 ??m spot size, and the cost is less than $75 per photograph to scan and output the pixels on a magnetic storage medium. On the digital side, solid state charge coupled device linear and area arrays can yield quality resolution (7 to 12 ??m detector size) and a broader dynamic range. If linear arrays are to compete with film cameras, they will require precise attitude and positioning of the aircraft so that the lines of pixels can be unscrambled and put into a suitable homogeneous scene that is acceptable to an interpreter. Area arrays need to be much larger than currently available to image scenes competitive in size with film cameras. Analysis of the relative advantages and disadvantages of the two systems show that the analog approach is more economical at present. However, as arrays become larger, attitude sensors become more refined, global positioning system coordinate readouts become commonplace, and storage capacity becomes more affordable, the digital camera may emerge as the imaging system for the future. Several technical challenges must be overcome if digital sensors are to advance to where they can support mapping, charting, and geographic information system applications.
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Film cameras or digital sensors? The challenge ahead for aerial imaging