First Base Solutions Flies Applanix
First Base Solutions is Canada's leading provider of Aerial Photography, Orthophoto Mapping, Parcel Mapping, Flood Line Mapping and Digital Elevation Modeling. A wholly owned subsidiary of J.D. Barnes Limited (JDB), First Base Solutions (FBS) operates ...

First Base Solutions ( is Canada's leading provider of Aerial Photography, Orthophoto Mapping, Parcel Mapping, Flood Line Mapping and Digital Elevation Modeling. A wholly owned subsidiary of J.D. Barnes Limited (JDB), First Base Solutions (FBS) operates out of Markham Ontario, adjacent to the Buttonville Airport. Using Applanix’ ( POSTrack Direct Georeferencing and Flight Management System with a Microsoft UltraCam digital aerial camera, FBS first started collecting its own aerial data in 2005. Its unique business model is designed to make accurate aerial data low-cost and easily accessible by a variety of Geoprofessional users.


"FBS selected Applanix technology because it provides reliable data collection and an efficient software interface for the airborne environment." - John Knowles, Vice President, First Base Solutions

JDB is an employee owned company with 200 staff. In business for over fifty years, it is the leading provider of land information services in Canada. Including subsidiaries, JDB offers surveying, mapping, planning and geographic information services to a wide range of clients mainly in the province of Ontario, but also throughout Canada and internationally.

In an effort to expand its mapping and GIS business lines, FBS was formed in 2000 by combining the Mapping and GIS Divisions of JDB. With a staff of approximately 40, FBS targeted a diversified set of clients, including all levels of government, utilities, engineering and land development companies. The compamy provided an equally diverse set of products and services, including orthophoto and topographic mapping, property mapping, digital aerial imagery (3 cm to 80 cm ground pixel resolution), and digital oblique imagery.

Executing On a New Business Model

Prior to 2005, FBS did not itself perform photo acquisition, preferring to acquire data from outside providers. FBS saw an opportunity, however, to develop a new business model that would lower the cost of geospatial data for everyone. The strategy was to acquire the data themselves, with their own aircraft and cameras, and license it to the entire geospatial market, not just specific clients. This way the cost of the data acquisition is spread over many users and many applications, lowering it for everyone. A variety of data ownership models are possible, everything from joint client/FBS ownership to licensing arrangements where one party owns the data and access is granted to others on a “subscription and view only” basis.

To execute on this strategy, FBS needed an airplane and some survey equipment suitable for aerial survey operations. They settled on a Cessna 414 equipped with a Large Format Vexcel UltraCAM-D Camera capable of Panchromatic (PAN), Colour (RGB) and colour infrared (CIR) imagery. They also acquired a Cessna 206, specifically for aerial survey work for Pictometry, as their exclusive data acquisition partner for Canada. An airborne sensor platform for precise stabilization and drift control of aerial cameras called the GSM-3000 gyroscopic mount was acquired and installed with the UltraCAM. The GSM-3000 is based on Carl Zeiss technology and is the fastest stabilized mount available. It has a large diameter and fits with nearly every airborne sensor available today.

FBS and Applanix

For precision recording of the camera position and attitude, FBS turned to Applanix’ POSTrack Direct Georeferencing and advanced Flight Management System. Designed to maximize the efficiency of aerial mapping, POSTrack was viewed as the most reliable and accurate system available that could also withstand very rigorous airborne use.

"The business of data collection was new for us, but Applanix has been a very supportive partner. Their technology and expert customer service has helped us to perform these projects and execute our business plan." - John Knowles

Available as a stand-alone product and as an OEM board set, POSTrack consists of a POS AV system tightly integrated with an advanced Flight Management System (FMS). The POS AV is specifically designed for direct georeferencing of airborne sensor data. By integrating precision GNSS with inertial technology, POS AV enables geospatial projects to be completed more efficiently, effectively, and economically. POS AV is engineered for aerial cameras, scanning lasers, imaging scanners, synthetic aperture radar, and LIDAR technology.

The FMS integrated in POSTrack is the XTRACK Flight Management System from Track’Air and it provides mission planning, pilot guidance and sensor control - important for reducing time in the air and improving data quality. Together, the POS AV and XTRACK FMS form a single POSTrack system, compact, convenient, and easily installed on all types of aircraft without a complicated network of cables. “Applanix and Track’Air have nicely integrated their systems to make an efficient, compact solution,” said John Knowles.

Increased Business

FBS now offers its aircraft, cameras, the Applanix POSTrack system, and flight crew and maintenance technicians for aerial photogrammetry operations throughout North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

"In the office, Applanix' POSPac MMS software delivers fast and accurate data post processing and versatile data output." - John Knowles

Currently FBS has numerous major aerial collection projects underway. For the municipal governments in the Greater Toronto Area and most of Southern Ontario, they are performing an ongoing maintenance program where aerial survey is performed to help the municipal governments monitor and understand their infrastructure needs. This is important for them to support future development, maintenance, emergency preparedness and a host of issues that arise on a daily basis. Orthophoto production for Ontario, Quebec and Eastern Canada is also underway at various resolutions ranging from 15 cm to 30 cm.

FBS’ Unique Cost-Reduction E-commerce Business Model

Their business model called for not only collecting and creating a data warehouse, but also for creating an ecommerce website for data hosting and distribution. Clients, partners and any other interested parties can use the site to access data as required without ever acquiring or even downloading it – it could simply be viewed and utilized online as needed.

Currently FBS provides access to one of the largest libraries of high-resolution orthophotos, covering most of Canada's major city centers. Users can locate, purchase and download high-quality geospatial images in a variety of formats.

Specific online offerings include VuMAP, a mapping application that provides “view access “to high-quality, high-resolution aerial imagery. This web-based subscription service includes navigation controls and search, readily giving users the ability to access the data needed, when needed. MapWarehouse is an online data store with a comprehensive repository of high quality spatial data such as orthophotography, parcel maps, DEM tiles, 3D Buildings, topographic, raster and line drawn images.

To learn more about First Base Solutions Aerial Surveys, visit

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