Recently I got pretty much tired of my main operation area, which is Europe. Although I consider the Austrian Alps to be the most beautiful area to fly in, I just needed something new. That’s when I stumbled across the X-Plane Orthophotos Project by community member Forkboy2. Forkboy2 provides free ortho packs for various areas around the world, for the most part in the US, though. These packs have certain advantages over regular Ortho4XP packs, see for example:
- High resolution orthoimagery, which is a combination of ZL16 (2.4 m/p) for flyover areas and ZL17 (1.2 m/p) within 6 km of airports.
- High resolution elevation data based on 1/3 arc-second USGS DEM (~10 meter spacing between elevation points).
- Road networks and custom autogen buildings from HD Mesh Scenery Version 3 by alpilotX (with permission).
- Custom water masks (with some of the packages)
The best part, however, is this. Forkboy2 color corrected the source images to remove the “washed out” appearance that is common with orthophotos. The settings vary a bit by region, but in general, the colors should appear darker and deeper than they would without the color correction. This is a huge improvement over regular Ortho4XP. I downloaded California and Arizona and so far I haven’t seen any patched areas, none.
There is only one downside (actually not really a downside, but the next steps involve some DIY on your side). Once you comfortably downloaded a certain pack via BitTorrent, you need to convert all .jpeg files to .dds files with the provided batch file. The reason is, .jpegs are much smaller than .dds files, so this saves a lot of bandwith for everyone. The conversion can take a few hours or more (depending on your hardware) but the results are simply stunning!
To learn more about the project, download .torrents or to watch more screenshots, head over to x-plane.org here! Enjoy!