BELOIT—City of Beloit planning staff say an effort to secure new aerial images of Beloit and greater Rock County are vital to future economic growth and civil engineering in the city.

This spring, the Wisconsin Regional Orthoimagery Consortium (WROC) will conduct flights across Rock County, City of Janesville and City of Beloit.

The sophisticated Geographic Information System (GIS) operated by Rock County and used by municipalities across the county is an invaluable tool used for economic development, comprehensive planning, zoning, code enforcement, flood plain mapping, public works projects and private construction projects, according to the City of Beloit Engineering Department.

The Beloit City Council approved a memorandum of understanding on Feb. 3 that allows Beloit to buy into the imaging effort at a cost not to exceed $15,721. Rock County allocated $65,080 for images of the county and $195,252 for Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) for unincorporated areas of the county, according to the memorandum.

Each municipality in the agreement will obtain an updated orthoimagery and a Digital Terrain Model (DTM) at less cost than if each municipality contracted for the services independently.

The last time the maps were updated came in 2016.

Beloit will receive data for approximately 41 square miles of area in and contiguous to the incorporated limits.

Beloit Planning and Building Services Director Drew Pennington said the city’s planning division uses GIS Mapping “on a daily basis” for preparing staff reports, answering questions from the public and analyzing development proposals.

“Updated aerial photos provide the basis upon which multiple layers of data can be overlaid, such as zoning information and property lines,” Pennington said.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), high resolution orthorectified images combine the image characteristics of an aerial photograph with the geometric qualities of a map. An orthoimage is a uniform-scale image where corrections have been made for feature displacement such as building tilt and for scale variations caused by terrain relief, sensor geometry, and camera tilt. A mathematical equation based on ground control points, sensor calibration information, and a digital elevation model is applied to each pixel to rectify the image to obtain the geometric qualities of a map.