The sky’s the limit

OS explains how increased investment and capability in UAS technology has resulted in better value for our customers.

3 minute read
For over two centuries Ordnance Survey (OS) has pushed the boundaries to keep the map of Great Britain up to date. From the Ramsden Theodolite in 1791 to the latest GPS surveying tech, OS has continued to invest in new ways to capture change across the nation.

With 230 surveyors all over Great Britain, planes and even artificial intelligence (AI) being used to map out the country and capture geospatial data, you’d think we were already well stocked.

OS has been using unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones in layman’s terms, for many years. However, with increased investment and capability in this technology, OS can now survey sites that would have traditionally taken a field surveyor a whole day in just 20 minutes.

By connecting to OS Net, our resilient network of Global Navigation Satellite System base stations, the new 20MP DJI Phantom 4 RTK drones are helping surveyors capture map features more swiftly and accurately from the air.

The UAS team led by Senior Production Manager, Mark Cuthbert, is perfectly positioned for regional coverage with UAS Lead and Head Pilot James Morrison (South), and four fully qualified UAS pilots Stuart Dunbar (Scotland), Ben Morris (West), Mark Southwart (East) and Jamie Howe (North).

The geographical location of each pilot means that the majority of England and Scotland can now be captured within a two-hour drive. This is just the start of the journey to productionise UAS that will improve and evolve over time and deliver better value for our customers.

“The drone capability is just another survey tool in the toolbox, operating between boots on the ground and planes in the air, which gives us more flexibility of options to deliver currency of GB, enabling a rapid response to customer needs,” said Team Lead Mark Cuthbert.

Prestige projects like Crystal Palace’s brand-new youth and reserve team training facility and the A465 road widening required capturing as soon as possible. The introduction of UAS has significantly expediated essential and important projects like this.

Mark Cuthbert said: “Crystal Palace’s new youth and reserve team training facility was a big job. It is a large site and much quicker to capture via UAS, which was necessary on this occasion due to the time constraints to be onsite when the players were not training.”

Aside from customer benefits, the wellbeing and safety of staff is of paramount importance and this new tech has meant surveyors can be assisted on riskier projects or areas where health and safety may be an issue.

Production Consultant and Head UAS Pilot, James Morrison, said: “We used UAS to capture the A465 widening because it was much, much safer than having a surveyor walk the carriageway.

“There were also health and safety issues at a battery storage site we surveyed, as well as no access for the surveyor, so the UAS technology can be invaluable in many ways.

“Essentially UAS has provided OS greater flexibility in responding to customer needs, as well as a myriad of other benefits including increased health and safety, gaining access to difficult locations or simply helping out surveyors who are very busy.”

Ordnance Survey
By Ordnance Survey

Our highly accurate geospatial data and printed maps help individuals, governments and companies to understand the world, both in Britain and overseas.