How Aerial Imagery Is Helping Plan Logistically Complex Events


Event technology has come a long way in recent years, and while aerial imagery is not specific to events, it is helping organizers of logistically complex events plan safe and efficient gatherings through the pandemic and beyond.

Aerial imagery, provided by companies like Nearmap, is distinct from satellite imagery in that it is captured from planes outfitted with cameras and provides higher resolution images in greater detail. It can be particularly valuable for large outdoor events that require precise planning of infrastructure and attendee traffic flow.

“The basic premise is that, rather than having to be onsite all the time planning, measuring, and walking areas, you get instant access to high resolution aerial maps,” explains Tony Agresta, Nearmap Executive Vice President and General Manager, North America. “Then you've got really clear pictures, number one, but you also have current photos that show you what the landscape looks like.”

For example, the United States Golf Association (USGA) has been using Nearmap for the past few years to plan the US Open, which is a massive undertaking as it includes “everything from the architecture and engineering, to the construction and transportation, to the event planning and management,” says Agresta.

The aerial imaging technology came in particularly handy in 2021 due to additional Covid measures that needed to be implemented. “When Covid hit, a lot of people were setting up facilities in tents or small buildings that people could drive into to get tested, or in some cases vaccinated,” says Agresta. “Nearmap was used to locate a lot of those spots, which, a lot of times, were in parking lots that were close to residential areas. So in one seamless map, you can look at all these locations.”

Nearmap also provides 3D mapping, which enables organizers to navigate the three-dimensional space and view different perspectives around the area. “It’s about making the experience and the event as good as it could possibly be using technology,” notes Agresta.

In addition, being able to access high-resolution imagery of an event site online also means fewer onsite visits and enables more work to be done remotely, which was key at the height of the pandemic but will remain important as business travel for many people remains less frequent. Nearmap imagery is updated two to three times a year, depending on the location, and updated images are made available online within a few days of a flight.

For last year’s US Open, the USGA had to make major changes to the event on a short timeframe, typical of Covid-era events, once the state of California loosened its restrictions and allowed fans to attend the event.

The organizers leveraged aerial imagery to plan for a larger crowd than initially anticipated by, for example, figuring out that they could designate part of the 36-hole golf course as a parking area — they wanted to avoid shuttles given the pandemic — building temporary entrances, and plotting line routes for attendees who would be providing proof of vaccination or a negative test.

In addition to the USGA, Nearmap is used by many organizations and cities across the US, including Salt Lake City and Eastvale, to plan the logistics around concerts, festivals, etc. The tech is also used to execute the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C.

“Aerial imagery is useful anytime you need to put up stages, route transportation, put up barricades or need law enforcement or medical personnel,” says Agresta. “Anything that going to require you to build something, manage traffic patterns, and/or put in the security.”

While of course not everyone will have the means to access technology like Nearmap, it provides interesting use cases for events and shouldn’t be overlooked (no pun intended) for complex installations to enhance both attendee safety and the overall event experience.