The power of aerial images was first discovered with the earliest forms of manned flight, such as with surveillance balloons launched at Civil War battle sites. Since, we have seen the means of obtaining aerial images evolve, from balloon, to aircraft, to satellite, and most recently to tiny drones. But, we are also seeing a trend where the state, represented here by FAA as the agency intended to regulate all aviation issues, is in fact impeding the right to take aerial images.
The images we can collect offer huge benefits, such as the efficient identification of environmental damages, or even just the assessment of land use patterns. One artist who has focused on this is Mishka Henner. Born in 1976 in Brussels, Belgium and currently based in Manchester, England, Mr. Henner has done considerable work with satellite images, sometimes doing color enhancements and other edits to create images that encourage public understanding and discussion.
For example, a recent article at EcoWatch focuses on fracking.
Another recent article at EcoWatch focuses on confined animal feedlots, common in many rural areas of the United States.
Oddly, the trends have been against the right of individual citizens to use aerial imagery. For example, FAA has been aggressively threatening fines and sanctions against any individuals who might use drones for even trivial, hobby-like jobs. And, too, we are watching larger interests (such as ag corporations, police agencies, and energy companies) play their legislators to produce laws that make it illegal to photograph their activities, even when these same larger interests are clearly breaking the laws of the land.
Here is an excerpt from an article about Ag-Gag laws, Factory Food From Above: Satellite Images of Industrial Farms:
As things stand now, other countries such as China are way ahead of the U.S. For example, a June 2014 Bloomberg article, China Catches Industrial Polluters With Drone Missions, notes how the state there is catching environmental crimes, commonly by steelmakers.