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Google nabs aerial camera company

'We will photograph everything'

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If you were getting worried that a full two weeks had passed without Google acquiring yet another company, you can now rest easy. Today, the lord of the acquisitions bagged ImageAmerica - a company that takes aerial photographs with its own airplanes and high-res cameras - as it looks to beef up imagery on its Google Earth and Google Maps services.

"We're excited about how ImageAmerica's technology will contribute to our mapping services down the road," wrote Steve Chou, a Google Earth and Maps product manager, on the company's Lat Long Blog. But he was quick to temper the excitement of Google users: "Since we're in the research and development phase right now, it may be some time before you see any of this imagery in Google Maps or Earth."

It turns out that ImageAmerica provided Google Earth with aerial images of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in August of 2005, but Google wouldn't tell us much more. All we know is that the acquired company specializes in this sort of "digital orthoimagery" and likes to tag its tools with ridiculous names. ImageAmerica's former web site, recently shutdown by Google, trumpets its Beech Starship aircraft and DDP-2 (Direct Digital Panoramic) photography system. Evidently, this flying gear can grab ground-level details measuring no more than six inches long.

When we asked Google to give us a bit more info about the equipment's capabilities, the company simply pointed to those Katrina photos. "Even though this imagery is in black and white, you can see the level of detail is significantly greater than the non-high res imagery traditionally available in Earth/Maps," said a company spokesperson.

Between Earth and Maps, Google seems intent on serving up tightly woven digital photos of just about everything. Its ImageAmerica purchase comes just a few days after an eagle-eyed Gizmodo reader spotted a new fleet of Chevy Cobalts that will soon be snapping 360-degree photos for Google StreetView, the company's eye-level window onto the world. Enjoy your privacy while you can.®

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