Targeted Editing – Does Your Airport Have a Polygon?

For airports, polygons are twice as nice!

Welcome to our Targeted Editing series where today you can figure out how to cook with thyme, or make OpenStreetMap data sublime! (Both take about the same amount of time.)

Read on for some basic uses for airport polygons, and where you can check to see if you can use your local knowlege to add some polygons where they are needed.

How can airport polygons be used?

  1. Help with map rendering. No, this doesn’t mean we need help adding a layer of sand and cement, this means help with how things are cartographically displayed on the map. A map label for a point is great to have, but a polygon is even better. It adds more detail and visual appeal.

  2. Help with display order. In many cases, the size of an airport indicates significance. When airports have polygons, the size of the airport can be used to determine how much you should zoom in to the map before it appears. Bigger airports can be shown sooner than smaller airports.

  3. Help with search rank. When searching, a search engine can use a number of things to prioritize what features are returned. Some examples might be associated attributes like type, or even the physical size of a feature. Since points have no area, adding a polygon could be an excellent enhancement.

  4. Help with routing. An airport polygon helps identify the entire grounds of an airport; not just parking, terminal buildings, and runways. Airport polygons can help to indicate where driving might be restricted.

We are missing some airport polygons here!

Check out this pie chart for airports in the San Francisco Bay Area:

‘Tis the season to travel, and regional airports need some love.

How you can help improve airports without polygons:

Here is a map styled by Peter Richardson & Nathaniel V. Kelso showing airports that don’t have polygons. To add a polygon for an airport that is only represented by a point, click one of the bright blue highlighted airport points to bring up an info bubble with links to editing tools that can be used to add the missing polygons.

(This map is interactive! Open full screen ➹ )

See the wiki page for aeroway=aerodrome for lots of details.

Interested in adding even more airport features? Of course you are!! Visit the list of aeroway features on the OpenStreetMap wiki to help you learn how to digitize runways, terminals, gate numbers, and many other useful details!

Including your sources with the source key is incredibly helpful. This includes the imagery you use to trace features, and any authoritative websites as long as they allow their use for this purpose.

If you find an airport that appears to have a polygon, but it’s still highlighted, you may have found a duplicate, an airport with runways but not airport grounds polygon tagged aeroway=aerodrome, or some other interesting tagging variation. Improving those is a topic for another post…)

Not familiar with the San Francisco Bay Area? Search or pan over to your home town to contribute your local knowledge to the map. You will see your changes right away in OpenStreetMap. You will also be able to see them in all versions of the Mapzen Vector Tiles within an hour, including the map right here on this page!

Need instructions on how to edit with iD? Here are some links to outstanding tutorials from LearnOSM, the OpenStreetMap wiki, and the United States Department of State’s Humanitarian Information Unit:

Are you a mapping wiz and interested in a more advanced editor? Try out JOSM with excellent documentation from Mapbox.

Thanks, and please check back soon for the wrap-up of our series!

All the posts in the Targeted Editing series: