June 30, 2021

Q+A with a GIS Specialist: Leveraging EagleView Imagery Within Esri Platforms


By Joe Oddi, Director of Partner Strategies, Government

As EagleView’s lead liaison with Esri, I jumped at the chance to speak at the upcoming Esri User Conference, the leading industry event for GIS professionals.  

I’m excited. On July 14, from 8:45-9:15 AM PST, I’ll be discussing how to integrate EagleView’s high-resolution aerial imagery within your Esri workflow. There’s so many incredible use cases to share. 

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But it got me thinking. Who better to share than an actual GIS professional? 

I recently spoke with George Strebel, GIS Manager for Williamson County, TX, to learn how this imagery-wielding GIS ninja uses this integration in his day-to-day, and discuss his applications for the future. 

Hope you enjoy!

Check out a brief snippet of Joe and George’s follow-up conversation above.

Joe Oddi: First off, thank you so much for your time and willingness to speak with me today. I can’t wait to dig in and learn more about you and your workflows. 

George Strebel: Thanks for having me, Joe. I’m happy to share my experiences with your audience. 

JO: How long have you been GIS Manager for Williamson County? 

GS: I’ve been with the county for about 14 years, in the GIS Manager role for the past eight years. We started using EagleView in 2008 when we did our first county-wide flight with our city partners, and have never looked back.

JO: Why did you choose EagleView, and why have you continued using EagleView over the years? 

GS: We were buying imagery within the county, and we were looking for better alternatives to what we were getting at the time. The consortium of regional government was buying flights, and it would take nearly 12 months to get the imagery back. Our appraisal district mentioned they were looking at EagleView, and we saw a presentation at a user group made up of cities within the county. We bought in as a group, and it worked out to be quite nice for us to use EagleView as a trial to see if it was a better alternative. EagleView flew in November, and we had the imagery back within three months.

Since then, the resolution has only gotten better, and the turnaround time for deliverables has continued to improve as well.

JO: What are some of the key functions you use EagleView imagery for? 

GS: Our office does 9-1-1 addressing as one of our main functions, so we use it on a daily basis for looking up and assigning addresses. We also do the Integrated Pictometry Application (IPA), so we integrate the imagery into our public-facing web maps. We use the orthogonal images internally and for our web viewers, but we also do the IPA for our obliques, so our constituents can view those. Additionally, we also use them internally with the tools EagleView provides to assist with public safety. 

After our first or second flight, the appraisal district saw the value of the oblique imagery. We were only concentrating on the orthos at first, but they saw the value of obliques and decided they would pick up the bill and invited any other member to join in and cover any additional costs. In our situation, we have some cities that go into other counties that we needed to cover, so we were all in. 

The appraisal district has always been great about sharing other data they get, including building footprints, which is important to us because we can use it against the flood plain when we get asked for year-to-year comparisons of what’s been built. We’ve also used it several times to do canopy analysis, using the Esri tools to do some supervised classifications so we can see how much was covered by open land versus tree cover. 

JO: Which Esri tools do you use? 

GS: We use ArcGIS Pro, Desktop, Collector, Survey123, Server.  

JO: How do you integrate EagleView imagery into your Esri tools? 

GS: We use the EagleView orthos (top-down images) to do our own tile caches, so we can manage that down to the levels we want. We then integrate those ortho tile caches into stand-alone applications for different departments. We actually submitted our EagleView orthos to Esri so they could be our base map orthos in ArcGIS Pro. Since we contractually have ownership of the orthos (as opposed to some customers that simply license them), we were able to do that. 

So anybody that uses Pro within our county doesn’t have to worry if they have a service they can consume, because they can use the latest orthos from EagleView. Esri was extremely excited about that, and it’s worked like clockwork every year. We submit the latest imagery and it’s uploaded within a month or so. 

We also use the obliques through our Geocortex platform, and our tax office uses the CONNECT platform all the time for appraisals. 

We’ve built up a pretty nice cache of EagleView imagery on our public-facing Geocortex platform, so constituents can go back and look at each year that we have mosaics. 

JO: What are the benefits of being able to build these base maps within ArcGIS Pro? 

GS: It’s very helpful for us for both 9-1-1, as well as road and bridge. They’re responsible for roadways and septic systems, and it gives them the confidence that what they’re seeing in the imagery is what it actually looks like, since we get the imagery every year. 

It’s also helpful on our targeted applications to have the obliques integrated, and it’s helpful for road and bridge to give them a good idea of what an area looks like. They can zoom around and get a great understanding of where they are. 

JO: It seems that one of the major benefits is that the entire Williamson County government can use these base maps. 

GS: Yes, for sure. We’ve been lucky in that way, that we have good relationships within the county and the appraisal district has taken the lead and we could pay into it for what we needed. I think the cities would say the same, too. 

Geocortex is our main platform – it’s an Esri partner, but it’s the main platform we integrate the obliques into so that any department can use it, in addition to our constituents. It really helps build a sense of consistency – we’re all using the same base maps, so we’re all looking at the same thing in each department. 

JO: Is that something that’s popular with constituents? 

GS: It is. They like to be able to see their houses and use those measuring tools on their property. 

JO: How are you planning to participate in the upcoming Esri User Conference? 

GS: I’ll definitely sit in on as many sessions as I can. When it’s in person, I attend the event and meet up with other professionals in the field to share our problems, solutions, and just to share some stories. 

JO: What are you interested to hear about at the show? Any big trends you’re watching? 

GS: The big thing I’ve been paying attention to is the transition to field maps. Mobile is probably one of our biggest untapped sources of data collection – even though we do some, there’s so much more that can be done. We need to pay attention to it and stay on top of that trend.  

And for us, moving our departments from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro is a pretty big interest, so I’ll be learning as much about that as I can. It’s hard to manage two platforms. 

JO: Any sessions you’re looking forward to? 

GS: I like to pay attention to the technical sessions, but also the ones that talk about people’s experiences. That’s where you can really hear people’s struggles and solutions – it helps make you understand what others are going through and that you’re not alone. 

And I’ll make sure to check yours out, as well. 

JO: That’s what I like to hear! That session, ‘Integrating EagleView Imagery into your Esri Workflow’, will be on Wednesday, July 14, from 8:45 – 9:15 AM PST. Can’t wait to see you there. 

Well, George, thanks so much for chatting with me about your passion for GIS today. I really enjoyed learning from you. 

GS: Happy to, Joe. Thanks for having me!

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