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Shopping centers use aerial maps for site location analysis

From site selection through planning, construction and maintenance, shopping centers are using high-resolution aerial maps as guides

4 min read




As shopping center executives look for an edge over the competition, many are turning to new technologies to help them better manage properties, control costs and operate more efficiently. One emerging area is the use of high-resolution aerial maps to help with everything from developing to managing to expanding centers. In this post, we talk with Tony Agresta, vice president of marketing at Nearmap US, about the ways shopping center executives can use new technology.


How are aerial maps helping address challenges shopping centers face today?

That age-old adage “location, location, location” has taken on new meaning in the last two years as aerial mapping is changing the way retail site planners, architects, construction companies and maintenance teams access information.

Until now, anyone interested in retail site location would either use low-resolution satellite imagery or use a drone to photograph a small area. Today, companies involved in commercial real estate services, property management and real estate brokerage are accessing tens or hundreds of thousands of square miles of aerial maps from their desktop or mobile device.  They visualize locations using groundbreaking photography that shows details down to cracks in the pavement, standing water, neighboring communities, streets and competitor locations. And all this information is instantly accessible in the cloud – current and consistently high resolution.

Nearmap high-resolution aerial maps are used in planning with data overlays from OMG Aerials.


How is the shopping center industry applying aerial maps?

When you consider an end-to-end project lifecycle in retail or shopping centers, it includes site location analysis, proposal development, planning and measurement, collaboration with an ecosystem of partners including architects and designers, construction, maintenance and possibly expansion when the center is modified.  

High resolution aerial maps add clear definition to each step of the lifecycle. Organizations that apply this technology build confidence with their customers, win more business and optimize resources. In addition, location content applications with high definition imagery inside guide these consumers on their journey.

Professionals in this industry should consider aerial mapping as a “location content storefront” with instant access to current visuals of single properties, large panoramas or anything in between. It’s this showcase of aerial photography, and the historical archive that goes with it, that organizations visualize to see top-down views and oblique perspectives that show height and dimension. Because everyone in the ecosystem sees the exact same imagery, users multiple their efforts and work more efficiently. 

Oblique image for a section of the Mall of America shows roofing detail, storefronts, parking lots and access roads.


What’s the science behind aerial maps and how do users gain access?

Instead of relying on satellite imagery that lacks precision, aerial maps are captured using special camera systems mounted in the bellies of planes. Flight patterns are well-planned and automated. Imagery is captured and processed using pre-built services that leverage massive data pipes that allow for any volume. Because the entire process – capture, manage and delivery – is streamlined, the aerial imagery is online within days of the flights.  

Often, users simply launch the Nearmap MapBrowser from their desktop, search for a location using an address, city or place, and then navigate, zoom, measure and export the image for use in presentations and proposals. In other words, access is instant and can be adopted by many people.

Mapping specialists interested in advanced functions typically access Nearmap from one of Esri’s products such as ArcGIS Online. Civil engineers might use the imagery from an Autodesk product like AutoCAD Civil 3D or InfraWorks. 


Aerial maps can help the full spectrum of users in the shopping center world transform the way they work. Next month’s post will review specific features associated with aerial mapping that has transformed the way a Houston commercial real estate company operates. For more information, visit Nearmap.


Tony Agresta is vice president of marketing for Nearmap. He has 30 years of experience building high-performing teams in the analytics, mapping and aerial imagery markets.