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Air Photo Search Guide: Frequently Asked Questions

This is a guide to finding air photos in the Spatial and Numeric Data Services collection.

FAQs about Air Photos at Spatial and Numeric Data Services

Where are the air photos? Calgary and area air photos are located at Spatial and Numeric Data Services (SANDS) TFDL 4th floor location.  All other photos are held offsite, retrievable within a few days.

Who can use the collection? The air photo collection is open to the public.  Users do not need a Library card to view the collection, only for borrowing. 

How do I find air photos? This guide explains how to find air photos.  Finding photos is a self-serve process; SANDS staff can explain how to use finding tools. 

Can I check photos out? Photos can be used at SANDS or checked out with a valid borrowers card. 

Is there a copying service? SANDS has a scanner but does not provide a copy or scanning service.

What about copyright? SANDS does not hold the copyright for any collections.  For more information please refer to the Canadian Copyright Act or the University of Calgary's Copying Guidelines.

Are SANDS air photos online? Most air photos in the collection are hardcopy; some pre-1960s photos have been digitized.  Due to license restrictions, current digital photos from Alberta ESRD and the City of Calgary are available for University of Calgary users only.  

How complete is the SANDS collection?

  • Calgary and area: SANDS has a comprehensive collection, 1920s to the present. 
  • Other areas: SANDS has some coverage for southern Alberta, and less for other areas of the province and Canada. 

How do I find air photos for areas SANDS doesn't have?

  • Alberta: for complete coverage of Alberta, users can search and purchase photos online from the Alberta Air Photo Distribution website.  This collection contains over 1.5 million air photos dating back to 1949.
  • Canada: Federal air photo coverage of Alberta and Canada is available by purchase from the National Air Photo Library site.  The NAPL archives over six million Canadian air photos, dating back to the 1920s.
  • British Columbia: Information on finding and ordering BC air photos is available here.

How do I contact SANDS?

What are SANDS hours?

  • Monday to Friday, 11-3 (closed holidays)