Alaska High-Altitude Photography (AHAP) Program 1978-1986

Much of Alaska was photographed from high-altitude U-2 and ER-2 aircraft between 1978 and 1986 under a multi-agency, State and Federal partnership: The Alaska High-Altitude Photography Program (AHAP). This is considered by many to be the last successful acquisition of a statewide map.

These data provide a valuable baseline for detecting change that has occurred in Alaska in recent decades.

Places to get further information on the AHAP program:

  • GCMD website for AHAP
  • The Geophysical Institute’s GeoData Center AHAP page. Diapositive prints and high-resolution scans of individual frames are available from the UAF-GI GeoData Center.
  • The USGS EarthExplorer catalog has medium resolution scans available for immediate download. High-resolution scans can be ordered for a small cost. Search using the data set label “Aerial Photography -> Aerial Photo Single Frames” to see the holdings available through EarthExplorer.
  • Polar Geospatial Center has a Flightline Interactive Search interface for Google Earth users along with Flighline & Photocenters Raw Data available.

The SDMI has secured copies of two program documents, had scanned them, and is making them available for download.

From the AHAP Program booklet executive summary:

Until 1978, State and Federal land resource management organizations had been restricted in their oversight responsibilities by the lack of a uniform mapping database. Few maps had been made and those maps dated back to the Second World War. By the early 1970’s existing geographic information and aerial photographs were so outdated and inconsistent that they were unusable for current mapping.

In 1978, State and Federal agencies formed the Alaska High-Altitude Aerial Photography (AHAP) Program to develop a uniform aerial mapping photographic database. Funding was shared between the State of Alaska and the Federal government. Since the initiation of the program, approximately 90 percent of Alaska has been photographed.

The finished product of the AHAP Program is a set of unified and coordinated aerial photographs. Some of the uses of the AHAP photographs are the identification of diseased tree stands, monitoring shoreline changes, charting vegetation regrowth after a fire, delineating transportation corridors, making land conveyance determinations for bodies of water, and accelerating conveyance of land to the State and Native corporations.

Source: The Alaska High-Altitude Photography (AHAP) Program: A State/Federal Cooperative Program (6.4MB PDF), Paul D Brooks, 1988.

There is also a technical report that maps acquisitions:

SUMMARY OF ACQUISITION, 1978 - 1986: This summary is a graphical representation of high altitude photographic coverage of the State of Alaska flown in support of the consortium of Federal/State agencies. This series of twenty overlays are 1:2.5 million Transverse Mercator projection plots of center points of 1:60,000 color infrared photography with 10 percent cloud cover or less. The overlays are scaled to fit the US Geological Survey Topographical Map Index. In addition to the depiction of center points, each overlay lists the appropriate flight numbers associated with the coverage as a guide to more rapid access and retrieval.

from: Alaska High Altitude Photography Program: 1978 - 1986, Summary of Acquisition (5.6MB PDF), Airborne Instrumentation Research Project Applications Research Report, NASA Ames Research Center, 1988.