John A. Ciampa wants the world to be mapped with airborne video cameras. The Rochester Institute of Technology professor says still video images could be more accurate than conventional maps for many uses, including property surveys. Ciampa has invented a system that calculates the precise latitude and longitude of every dot on a video image. The idea is to start the camera at a known set of geographical coordinates. Then, measure the distance and direction you move from that position by keeping track of landmarks such as steeples, rocks, and trees as they move through the range of view. That kind of on-the-fly measurement is too complex for a person, but it's easy for a computer.
Ciampa says his video-mapping concept would be especially good in Eastern Europe and Russia, where maps are primitive and conflicting. In the U. S., one Orwellian concept is to keep track of parolees by transmitting their position coordinates to police stations. By superimposing those coordinates onto a picture pulled up from a video-map data base, the police could spy on cons who are about to, say, enter a bank where they don't have an account.