15
Sep
2010
0

Ordnance Survey and Exercise Orion

Buckled roads, collapsed buildings, destroyed power lines and trapped, injured and isolated civilians in desperate need of help.

That was the scenario played out across the country last week as part of Exercise Orion, an national disaster scenario designed to push the country’s emergency services to the very limit.

In the context of the imagined catastrophe, with a huge amount of information to process, understand and act upon, having a clear picture of the unfolding crisis was absolutely vital. That was why experts from Ordnance Survey were called upon to join the very heart of the operation and provide a geographic context to the unfolding events.

Four of our GI experts were deployed to command centres across the country in response to a call to our ‘Mapping For Emergencies’ hotline. They worked with the disaster management teams, providing them with an analysis on how the ‘earthquakes’ had impacted on electric, water and gas supplies, how the emergency services could be routed whilst avoiding impassable roads; and how best to evacuate civilians based on the location of the most vulnerable.

Rescuing a casualty from a collapsed apartment block

Rescuing a casualty from a collapsed apartment block

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14
Sep
2010
0

We’ve extended our transport network dataset with urban paths

Great Britain’s roads are now busier than ever before and increasingly we’re all being encouraged to use our cars less often. That’s especially true here at Ordnance Survey where we’re being encouraged to car share or cycle once we move to our new head office.

And any visitor to London will immediately see evidence of the hundreds of thousands of pounds that have been invested in ‘Boris’ Bikes’ across the capital. The good news of course is that walking and cycling more not only helps reduce our carbon emissions but also improves your fitness and saves money on petrol.

So, to do our bit, we’ve extended our transport network dataset, OS MasterMap Integrated Transport Network (ITN) Layer, to feature paths for pedestrians and cyclists across every major population centre in the country.

A sample of our new Urban Paths theme

A sample of our new Urban Paths theme

That’s a total of 58,077 kilometres of walkways, the equivalent of seven times around the coastline of Britain!

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10
Sep
2010
0

Celebrating a little corner of the great outdoors

Yesterday I had the pleasure of stretching my legs away from the office for a short time to celebrate a local community success story.

Every member of staff at Ordnance Survey has the option to take a day a year to volunteer for a worthy cause and back in 2005 a group chose to help clear a disused footpath near our Southampton offices.

Clearing the Greenway, December 2005

Clearing the Greenway, December 2005

This was part of the Lordsdale Greenway project, part of a wider scheme to create attractive green spaces for local people near where they live.

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7
Sep
2010
0

Using geography to plan for emergency flooding

As a Category 1 responder under the Civil Contingencies Act, Cornwall Council has a duty to plan for and respond to incidents quickly and effectively.

This means it has to thoroughly assess risks, put in place emergency plans, share information and cooperate with other responders, and make information available to the public.

In addition, as a Lead Local Flood Authority under the recent Flood and Water Management Bill, the Council is required to produce ‘flood hazard maps’ and maintain a register of structures or features that they consider to have a significant effect on flood risk in their area.

High Risk Community Flood map showing the potential extent of 1 in 1000 year fl uvial and tidal fl ooding, evacuation routes and the location of vulnerable people.

High Risk Community Flood map showing the potential extent of 1 in 1000 year fl uvial and tidal fl ooding, evacuation routes and the location of vulnerable people.

To help it meet these needs the Council has prepared flood maps for vulnerable areas across the county by combining our mapping and flood information from the Environment Agency with locally sourced information to display flood zone boundaries and flood defences.

The data lets the Council highlight important regional infrastructure such as evacuation briefing centres and assembly points, rest centres and potential helicopter landing sites. It also means that plans can be made for alternative routing around roads likely to be closed by flooding and how these might impact on the evacuation of vulnerable people like those in residential care, school pupils and hospital patients.

Here’s what Martin Rawling, Senior Emergency Management Officer at the Council, had to say about the role of geography:

Using Geographic Information effectively allows a timely data collection and mapping process which enables Emergency Management and other Council staff to react quickly and effectively to an incident, thereby enhancing the safety of the affected community. GI is an essential tool for us when preparing emergency plans and when responding to an incident.

The displayed maps, which are available both in the office and on lap top computers, paint very clear pictures of the location, risk, facilities and so on, allowing effective briefings and response.

1
Sep
2010
0

How to build an accurate 3D map

A few months ago I wrote about a 3D visualisation of the Bournemouth sea front that had been built by our Research department. It was all part of our work looking into the possible uses of three dimensional mapping and how we might try and keep a 3D mapping dataset current and up-to-date.

The team responsible for it have also been working on something else. This time it’s the London Docklands, built to be accurate to just a few centimetres across all three axis, X, Y and Z.

The Docklands

The Docklands

I spoke with the project’s architect, Jon Horgan, who explained the process behind it.

Firstly, we had to start with a solid foundation and the capture of features known as geomorphic vectors. These are used to create a very accurate terrain model, so that all the buildings and features will sit perfectly on the terrain, as they do in the real world.

The resultant terrain model was then used to add height to our OS MasterMap database prior to the photogrammetric capture of the 3D building models as well as features such as street furniture and vegetation.

Then real painstaking work of creating templates for some of the objects was undertaken where no stock 3D model existed. This included things like the lamp posts but also the cranes on the dockside and even the sculpture outside the Excel Centre entrance. The whole model is then automatically “textured” with our aerial photography.

Crucially, all of this work was done with only a block of stereo aerial photography and confidence in accuracies assured with GPS ground measurements.

It might not look like a modern computer game, but what’s important about this model is its accuracy. Just about every static feature is where it should be to within a few centimetres.

I particularly like the sculpture and you can also get an indication of the accuracy by looking at the shadows generated by the bill boards and fences.

The Excel Centre

The ExCel Centre

The big question remains of how exactly someone might use a 3D model like this. So, how would you use 3D?

30
Aug
2010
0

Five ‘must visit’ pubs

For many, hiking in Great Britain goes hand in hand with a pint of ale in a country pub. Wherever you are in this country you are never far from an Inn serving cold beer and a ploughman’s! I recently read about the remotest pub in Britain being put up for sale so I thought I’d round up a few of the interesting, famous and ‘must visit’ pubs across the country.  Whether you’re a hiker, cyclist or simply like to sample local ales, you should seek out the following pubs and hostelries.

The Old Forge – Inverie, Knoydart, Scotland.
This pub is the most remote in Great Britain and can only be access by an 18 mile hike over munros or a 7 mile sea crossing – but it’s well worth the journey. The pub started life as a smiddy’s forge before it became a workers social club. The pub is currently up for sale if you fancy becoming a publican in a pub that’s miles from anywhere!

Jamaica Inn – Bolventor, Cornwall
Made famous by  Daphne du Maurier’s novel by the same name, this old coaching inn is now a museum and hotel where ghost hunters can learn about the smugglers that used to pass through. Bodmin Moor is close by, adding to the mystery and intrigue offered at this inn.

The Old Smith’s Arms – Godmanstone
This is said to be the smallest pub in Great Britain. The story goes that Charles II stopped at a blacksmiths forge where he asked the smithy for a glass of porter and granted him a license to sell beer and porter. The bar measures 20ft. x 10ft, perfect for a cosy pint after a winter walk!

The Old Smith's Arms - FreeFoto.com

The Old Smith’s Arms – FreeFoto.com

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks – St Albans
One of several pubs that claim to be the oldest in Great Britain, this pub is currently in the Guiness Book of Records with some parts of the building dating back to the 11th century. It was originally used as a pigeon house which is why it has an interesting octagonal shape.

The Tan Hill Inn – Yorkshire
The Tan Hill Inn is on the Pennine Way and is Britain’s highest pub standing on a lonely spot 1,732ft above sea level. The pub is said to be haunted by Mrs Peacock who ran it for 40 years. It is surrounded by unspoilt moorland in the Yorkshire Dales.

 

27
Aug
2010
0

Ever passed “Go” and wondered where it is?

I think most of us have played Monopoly at some point in our lives and we all know that friend or family member who can be a bit liberal at their banking…does the thought of taking more than 200 Monopoly dollars to pass “Go” ring any bells? But have you ever wondered where “Go” actually is? 

OS OpenData Monopoly map

OS OpenData Monopoly map

The rest of the board game is well-labelled and “Go” actually sits between Mayfair and Old Kent Road – but where is it? Monopoly celebrated its 75th anniversary on Wednesday and we joined forces with them to pinpoint the location of “Go”.

“Go” is actually centred on Lambeth North Tube Station, close to Queen’s Walk, where Monopoly held their celebration event. As well as locating “Go” we worked with Monopoly to create a bespoke map: from the range of free Ordnance Survey data available within OS OpenData, OS VectorMap District was chosen as the base for the new map. 

Highly customisable, OS VectorMap District was stripped back to basics to allow for the Monopoly data to be added and overlaid. The map of London was quickly transformed to highlight the roads and areas shown on the Monopoly board before adding the locations and the title deeds for each property and station. 

It was fantastic fun to work with Monopoly and as well as plotting “Go” on the map we also marked the locations of all the other Monopoly board positions. The final ‘Monopoly map’ looks great and really brings the game to life, giving it a whole new dimension. 

Visit OS OpenData to create and connect exciting ideas, applications and datasets.

24
Aug
2010
0

What happened to old OS maps?

I’ve talked in previous posts about the new head office we’ll be moving to later this year and how excited I am about a shiny new building – but what about all that packing? If you think that there are around 1,100 of us currently living in a building intended for around 3,500–4,000, you can imagine how much space we’ve got. And if you think about what you do with any spare space in your home (come on, I bet your lofts, garages, sheds and cupboards are packed to bursting!), then you can imagine the task facing us after 40 plus years at Romsey Road. 

Paul’s already updated us on the historic artefacts we’ve uncovered, but there are also thousands and thousands of old maps and map-related records. So, what do we do with them? There are actually several routes we follow. Our Historic Map Archive has been used to complete collections and libraries up and down the country for example.

A photo of one of the maps being transferred to The National Archives

A photo of one of the maps being transferred to The National Archives

But that was quite an easy one. What would you do with a large scale metric survey of Shetland? It was actually gratefully received by The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Even more unusual has been the discovery of a 30-foot aerial photo covering the length of Britain. Dating from 1942, it was a training flight by the Spitfire Air Reconnaissance based in Scotland. It has now been passed to The National Archives (TNA) at Kew.

Aside from the unusual cases, the majority of our records are transferred to TNA as they are of historic value. We have trig records (our surveyors used them to show where measuring points were) which often include an old photo of a former surveyor pointing at some item on the ground!

There are also flight plans being packaged up and transferred to TNA. Before 2000 all our aerial photography involved photos and films, and the flight plans were used to show exactly how the images were captured along a route. This helped our colleagues with their digital orthorectification. This involves removing any height distortions in a flat photograph of the earth’s service so that the orthorectified image accurately reflects the position of features on the ground.

So, that’s what we do with our old maps. Before you know it, our old maps could be in deep store in a redundant Cheshire salt mine under the safeguard of the TNA. Or they could be in your local library, waiting to be used!