flying unit


OS Flying Team keep mapping Britain’s changes

As Britain’s mapping agency we’re keeping track of half a billion geospatial features across the country and making tens of thousands of changes daily. We have over 200 surveyors on the ground and aircraft who survey from the skies to ensure we have the latest data ready for our customers. Our Flying Team were already prepared for some changes in 2020 as they were moving base and flying in new aircraft with new cameras, but Covid-19 had a bigger impact. Find out how the team have been working in 2020.

Aerial view of London with Buckingham Palace, the London Eye and the Thames

London from the air during lockdown in 2020

The Flying Team are usually in the skies above Britain from March to early November each year, using the aircraft and high-resolution cameras to survey about a third of Britain, that’s  around 80,000 km2 of imagery data and over 100,000 individual images.

New base and aircraft

For the 2020 season, the team are flying from a new base, Retford (Gamston) Airport in Nottinghamshire. It’s a great location to fly to both the North of Scotland and down to the South West of Britain, and quite a change from working at our previous base in East Midlands Airport which is a large cargo hub and holiday gateway. Read More


Spring is in the air and so is our Flying Unit!

Based out of East Midlands airport, our team are getting to grips with some new technology and a new aircraft for the 2019 flying season, which runs from the end of February to the end of October.  

This year, were excited to be adding two Vexcel Mark 3 UltraCam Eagle cameras and a Pressurised Beechcraft B200 King Air aircraft to our kit! In a bid to capture more imagery than ever before and to test efficiency with flights, the new cameras and plane are being flown higher and at faster speeds.

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Our Flying Unit volumes increase as warm weather continues

While we have all been out embracing the heatwave at every opportunity, as a result our Flying Unit has had to contend with a busier airspace. As well as all the air shows at this time of year, when the weather is good, those with PPLs (Private Pilot Licence) are more likely to take to the air.

Despite this meaning they have to be extra vigilant, our Flying Unit has been making the most of this unique weather window with unprecedented results. The best way to demonstrate it is with the below graph. This shows the stark comparison of our flying season volumes against previous years. Read More


OS at the launch of the Year of Engineering with Primary Futures

The Year of Engineering launched at Allenby Primary School in Southall, Ealing last week and our surveyor and air camera operator Roger Nock was on hand to inspire the children. The Minister of State at the Department for Transport, John Hayes CBE MP was at the Primary Futures event along with volunteers from the world of engineering, aiming to showcase the vast range of exciting roles within the sector.

Roger at Allenby Primary School. Photo copyright Education and Employers  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edu_employers/albums/72157688592091941

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Is this the most unusual way of showing support for a team ever?

Following on from the recent ‘Sue x’ field carving mystery, we spotted letters almost as long as the Anfield pitch spelling ‘LFC’ spotted on Shropshire hillside – but who has done it? 

Our Flying Unit captures aerial imagery of over 50,000 square kilometres of the country each season. From the Isles of Scilly to Shetland, the team will capture over 140,000 aerial images each year, using the 196-megapixel cameras on-board the planes. And sometimes their pictures reveal something strange on the landscape…

Such as earlier this week, when flying over Shropshire, Andrew Tyrrell, a Remote Sensing Surveyor and Air Camera Operator, noticed ‘LFC’ carved into the scrub on the north side of Titterstone Clee Hill (SO588787), and took a picture. Intrigued by who or why someone would do such a thing and the effort required in such a remote location, he sent the image back to head office for analysis.

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OS Flying Unit now in print

Our Flying Unit has been immortalised by the iconic Squadron Prints who produce the highly acclaimed series of aircraft and ship lithographic prints. One of the Cessna 404 Titan’s we use, G-FIFA, features on the stunning print.

Our Flying Unit operate from East Midlands Airport, taking to the skies above Great Britain between February and November each year. Professional pilots take our air camera operators up in two Cessna 404s, G-FIFA and G-TASK, to take aerial imagery of over 50,000 square kilometres of the country each season. From the Scilly Isles to the Shetland Islands, the team will capture over 140,000 aerial images each year, using the 196-megapixel cameras on-board the planes. Read More


The Flying Unit has landed…

Cabin crew doors to manual and seat belts signs switched off…the 2016 flying season is complete. Jean Martin and her team explain why the season has come to an end and what they’re planning next.

Aerial imagery showing St Peter’s Square, Manchester

Aerial imagery showing St Peter’s Square, Manchester

It’s been another busy year for the OS Flying Unit, working from our East Midlands Airport base and taking to the skies in the two Cessna 404s. Flying from Lands’ End to Orkney, we’ve covered some 54,203 square kms of GB and taken over 141,700 aerial photographs along the way. Read More


Surveying Britain from the skies

OS plane G-FIFA at East Midlands Airport

OS plane G-FIFA at East Midlands Airport

If you were watching BBC Breakfast this morning, you may have seen their reporter, Graham Satchell, heading out with our Flying Unit and finding out how we survey Britain from the skies.

We’ve actually been using aerial photography to carry out our surveys for almost 100 years. Originally, this had the advantage of capturing information from areas that surveyors found hard to visit on foot. Today, it means we can keep on top of the data capture process – making continuous revisions of the whole nation’s landscape. Read More


Britain from above with the #OSEye

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.

#OSEye Roger captured one of our little planes lining up at an airfield

#OSEye Roger captured one of our little planes lining up at an airfield

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