Assessing a potential solution for spatially referencing of historical aerial photography in South Africa
Historical aerial photography has become a valuable commodity in any country, as it provides a precise record of historical land management over time. In a developing country, such as South Africa, that has undergone enormous political and social change over the last years, such photography is invaluable as it provides a clear indication of past injustices and serves as an aid to addressing post-apartheid issues such as land reform and land redistribution. National mapping organisations throughout the world have vast repositories of such historical aerial photography. In order to effectively use these datasets in today’s digital environment requires that it be georeferenced to an accuracy that is suitable for the intended purpose. Using image-to-image georeferencing techniques, this research sought to determine the accuracies achievable for ortho-rectifying large volumes of historical aerial imagery, against the national standard for ortho-rectification in South Africa, using two different types of scanning equipment. The research conducted four tests using aerial photography from different time epochs over a period of sixty years, where the ortho-rectification matched each test to an already ortho-rectified mosaic of a developed area of mixed land use. The results of each test were assessed in terms of visual accuracy, spatial accuracy and conformance to the national standard for ortho-rectification in South Africa. The results showed a decrease in the overall accuracy of the image as the epoch range between the historical image and the reference image increased. Recommendations on the applications possible given the different epoch ranges and scanning equipment used are provided.