High-resolution 3-D aerial images of Hawai‘i Island aid police, fire, other departments
May 8, 2023, 4:00 AM HST
When first responders arrived last week at a Hilo self-storage facility — where a man suspected of a series of violent offenses was barricaded — there already were high-resolution 3-D photos of the scene available to help with the apprehension.
Jason O’Brien, supervising police communication officer with Hawai‘i Police Dispatch, was looking at them on his computer, searching for places where the suspect could hide and possible routes for him to escape.
The aerial images had been captured by cameras in the belly of a Cessna flown at low altitude by Pictometry Corp. The images provide top and oblique angle (45-degrees) views of structures and neighborhoods, with great detail.
“It gives perspective of terrain and exceeds what Google Earth provides,” dispatch section Lt. Robert Fujitake said.
O’Brien, who has worked in dispatch for nearly 19 years, said with the population growth and development on the island that it’s imperative to have the latest technology for more up-to-date images.
“Compare it from going to looking at lines on a yellow screen but actually seeing definition,” O’Brien said. “We needed that. You’re seeing definition, door frames, sidewalks. You’re taking several passes and getting several angles.”
Fujitake said dispatchers often use the images for calls, providing responders with a better perspective on what the area is like, the best routes to the incident, and if there are any dangers or obstructions.
This is especially important in critical calls when people have guns and other weapons.
The police department has used the technology for several years. Last week, the Hawai‘i County Council’s finance committee unanimously approved $516,735 for the next four years, which will allow the police department and Hawai‘i Fire Department to access the latest images of the Big Island captured by Pictometry, which does business as Eagle View.
Eagle View recently flew over Hawai‘i Island, capturing the latest high-resolution photos from several different angles of subdivisions, businesses, developments and roadways.
Fujitake said the department recently received more in-depth training about how the system works and how other departments, like public works, are utilizing the program. Users of the system also have access to archival photos to compare the differences, which can come in handy for other county departments.
“It’s very sophisticated,” he said.
Dispatchers recently used the images to help police officers, responding to an alarm, find a residence in Hawaiian Acres Subdivison. Hawai‘i Fire dispatchers also have used Pictometry to help firefighters plan where to place their engines or ambulances within a city block for a building or brush fire.
“There are several uses or instances where Pictometry can help us, and we are glad that we have that extra tool to assist our officers,” O’Brien said.