By Antoni Wroblewski
What Is OpenStreetMap?
In the following tutorial we will cover what OpenStreetMap is, how it is used inside X-Plane and more importantly, how to contribute.
OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a collaborative effort to create a free editable map of the world. It was started in 2004 by Steve Coast, and since then, has grown to a large scale project with over a million users all over the world (with thousands of contributions every day).
Figure 1 represents the OSM data in central Berlin. You can clearly see the amount of detail available. Even individual trees have been mapped.
Many people are unaware of what OSM is exactly and mistakingly believe it is simply the draggable map on openstreetmap.org. It's important to understand that the OSM web site is simply a tool used for viewing the vast amounts of data inside OSM and for viewing and creating basic changes. The actual OSM data contains much more information than is available on this map and more importantly, is available for free under the ODbl license. This means that no single company or agency (such as Google or USGS) control the data, and people are free to use the data in their applications. The following lists some of the uses/and key points of OSM, and will help you get an idea of the information available and how it is used:
1) Many applications besides the web site use OSM data. If you search the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store for Android, you'll find thousands of applications that use OSM data. Most are simply offline versions of cities, whilst others are full-blown satellite navigation applications, e.g. the excellent OsmAnd. There is literally no limit to what can be done with OSM data, and World2XPlane/OSM is just one of the many uses outside of simple mapping applications.
2) OSM data contains lots of information not visible on the OSM web site. Many items have additional data attached to them, such as the address of a house, the height or even color of a building. There is no limit to the amount of data that can be attached to items on the map (as long as simple rules are followed).
3) OSM data is updated literally every second. In fact OSM data is often much more up-to-date than commercial equivalents such as Google Maps. In my local town, the new motorway junction appeared on the map about 5 minutes after it was officially opened. It is still not visible on Google/Bing or even the government web site.
4) OSM data contains things you won't find on other maps, and comes from local people with local knowledge, e.g. people will mark footpaths through fields, bicycle routes, opening times for shops, and even the type of food a restaurant serves.
5) Contributing to OSM is fun and rewarding. As well as improving flight simulator scenery, your changes will be available and benefit everyone who uses this data.
6) OSM data has been used to help save lives. After the Haiti Earthquake in 2010, the map data was immediately updated by hundreds of users and the data was used to aid search and rescue (http://hot.openstreetmap.org/projects/haiti-2>
How Does X-Plane And World2XPlane Use OSM Data
Figure 2 shows a 3D map of Berlin using the excellent demo.f4map.com/
World2XPlane takes OSM data and converts it into scenery for X-Plane. It uses as much information as possible to generate highly realistic scenery. The buildings you will see in the generated scenery are actual real buildings in their real location. If your house is mapped inside OSM, it will also appear in its exact location inside X-Plane, and you can literally fly over (or crash into) your house.
X-Plane's default scenery also uses OSM for things like roads, railroads and power lines. In addition, Andras Fabian (alpilotx) uses OSM data to produce his incredible HD Mesh v3 (available in the FlightSim.Com file library) which works really nicely with scenery generated by World2XPlane. HD Mesh v3 uses coastlines, rivers and other information to create very realistic looking scenery. The important thing to realise about OSM data is that anyone can edit it, fix bad data and expand the map. If you find a village or a stream missing inside the X-Plane scenery, you can edit the OSM data, and it will eventually find its way into X-Plane. The tutorials section found on my web site will contain information and guides on how to edit and expand OSM data, and to see your changes inside X-Plane. The link is provided at the end of the tutorial.