If you tuned in to BBC’s Countryfile on Sunday, you’ll have seen Roger Nock from our Flying Unit talking to Adam Henson at his Cotswold farm. We were talking about how the aerial imagery we fly in our planes has been used to map hedgerows for the Rural Payments Agency, and help work out subsidies for farmers. We showed an example of how 3D data can be captured and displayed over Adam’s farm.
After the programme, we received a tweet asking where the LiDAR camera was in our plane. The answer is simply that we don’t fly LiDAR (3D laser scanning of the ground) and our planes are surveying aerial imagery (taking a photo with a high-resolution camera on-board the plane). We are treating this imagery in a similar way to how others would work with LiDAR data though.
3D mesh of Adam’s farm, with attributes attached to the data
So, what were you seeing on Countryfile?
Those of you who regularly read our blog will know that at OS, we have a Flying Unit. Based out of East Midlands Airport, our two Cessna 404s fly the length and breadth of the country between February and November. They capture on average 50,000 aerial images covering 40 000 km squared of Britain’s urban, rural, moorland and mountain terrain every year.
Our Flying Unit travel the length and breadth of the country each year, capturing some 50,000 aerial images covering 40,000 km2 of Britain’s urban, rural, moorland and mountain terrain.
Our planes are two Cessna 404s called G-TASK and G-FIFA and they each fly with a highly-detailed digital camera – probably one the highest resolution cameras in the country – at 196 megapixels, which allows us to take high resolution images even from the skies. See this example below:
Every so often we receive a tweet from one of our followers saying that they’ve seen an Ordnance Survey plane overhead. Or someone will tweet us a picture like the one below and ask us what we’re up to. The simple answer is that we’re capturing aerial imagery of Britain, as part of our role as the national mapping authority.
If you’re a Countryfile regular on a Sunday evening, you might recognise our image this week. This amazing new attribute on the Northumberland landscape is the work of renowned artist Charles Jencks and featured on Countryfile back in March. Our Flying Unit recently captured the site with their 196 megapixel camera – although you might wonder how hard it is to capture what is now the world’s largest human form sculpted into the landscape.
Dockland and coastal areas across Great Britain can change dramatically as they are redeveloped for different uses, as the sea erodes the former coastline, or as new warehouses and storage areas can be built in docks themselves. It was a coastline that featured in our first ever map –the Kent coast – and it was published in 1801. The county was mapped out so that defences could be prepared against a possible invasion of England by Napoleon.
Today, as well as 250 surveyors on the ground working across the country, we operate two aircraft which are used to take aerial photography and are based in East Midlands Airport. They capture on average 50,000 aerial images covering 40 000 km squared of Britain’s urban, rural, moorland and mountain terrain every year.
Although our Flying Unit is now based at East Midlands Airport, this imagery was captured in November 2010, when it was still operating from its Blackpool Airport base. The photo was taken at some 6,000 feet above the location.
Can you name the docks shown in this photo – and a bonus point if you can name the famous boat featured. Post your answers on the blog…
If you are in the East Midlands area and watch or listen to local news, hopefully you’ll have heard from us today about the work that our Flying Unit undertakes capturing change through aerial photography.
We have two aircraft which fly the length and breadth of the entire country during the flying season which lasts from March till November each year. From 2012 for the next three years they are going to be based at East Midlands Airport and today we’ll be showing the media what we do, what data we capture using aerial photography and how that information is included into our database to update our mapping.
We hope they’ll feature us on local news bulletins through the day and this evening, so if you’d like to see our aircraft in action, look out for East Midlands Tonight or ITV Central.
We have two aircraft which will be based at East Midlands in a brand new hangar built by RVL Group who maintain and manage the aircraft for us. They are a Cessna 404 called G-TASK and a Cessna 402 called G-NOSE. All aircraft based in Great Britain start their name with a ‘G’ and then four letters. There’s no particular relevance to our names, but once they are named they are very rarely changed – much like a car registration plate!
The flying season for 2012 won’t be getting started for another month or so, and when it does, our Flying Unit will be taking off from their new home at East Midlands airport. In the meantime, we have plenty of aerial imagery databanked to give you a birds eye view of places across Great Britain.
Rugby fans amongst you will be only too aware that the RBS Six Nations championship kicks off in a fortnight. While many of you will have been lucky enough to visit our home nation’s stadiums – would you recognise one from the air? Our Flying Unit are often over sporting venues as part of their daily job, capturing the changes in our environment ready to be added to our geographic data and made available for our customers.
The stadium below will be in use during the tournament. As my home stadium, I recognised it instantly (although I’m afraid to say I’ve only been there for music events and never for sports)! We captured the image in April last year – can you name the stadium?
When the last aerial imagery was flown in November it didn’t just mark the end of the 2011 flying programme, but also the end of our tenure at Blackpool Airport. We’ve been flying from the airport for over 50 years, had an office in the area since the mid 1960s, and two members of our Flying Unit have been spending six months of the year there for the last 20 years.
In its early days, the flying programme operated from a number of bases around the country, including Blackpool. Over time, the central position of Blackpool for flying to the far north of Scotland and down to the Isles of Scilly made it the sensible choice to have as a permanent base for the Flying Unit. In addition, the climate in the area meant that it was rarely a fog-bound airport and flying time could be maximised.
The Flying Unit could be in the skies over you anytime that weather allows between March and November, capturing around 50,000 images a year. Five people, some from our field teams and others from head office, work on a rota from our Blackpool airport base during the flying season. The two people on the rota spend around two weeks at a time in Blackpool, flying as often as the weather allows, including weekends.
Following on from the aerial images in November, we thought we’d share some more of the images that our Remote Sensing team collect and process. As we capture some 50,000 images a year, there are plenty to choose from and share with you.
The first of today’s two images was taken right at the end of this year’s flying season, right here in Southampton, location of our head office. The flying season is usually around March-November time as this is the window for the best weather in Great Britain.
This photo was taken on Sunday 13 November over the centre of Southampton at the Cenotaph as the Remembrance Sunday service was taking place. As you can just about count the number of people taking part in the parade, it gives you a very good idea of the excellent imagery our digital cameras can take.