Bluesky awarded contract to map Wales from the air

Aerial mapping company Bluesky International has been awarded a contract by Natural Resources Wales, on behalf of Welsh government, to capture a high-resolution laser-mapped aerial survey of the country.

Bluesky will capture the data at a resolution of two points per metre before processing and delivering LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data for more than 20,000 sq km of rural and urban landscapes.

To capture highly accurate LiDAR data a survey aircraft equipped with a system of lasers is used. The lasers are transmitted to the ground and the time taken for the beam to be bounced back to the aircraft-mounted receivers is recorded. Using the known position of the aircraft (derived from on-board satellite positioning equipment), the time taken for the return of the laser beam and the known value of the speed of light, the distance between the aircraft and ground is calculated.

Readings can also be taken to determine the height of buildings, vegetation and other surface structures such as above ground pipelines, highways, street furniture, power lines and railway tracks.

The Bluesky LiDAR data will be employed in a range of policy areas including flood modelling, forestry management, coastline monitoring, urban planning and archaeological conservation.

The LiDAR data will also be made publicly available in due course, via the Welsh government’s Lle Geo-Portal website and Bluesky’s Mapshop.

Paul Isaac, project manager at Natural Resources Wales, commented: “Historically, LiDAR data has been acquired over Wales at various points in time from the 1990s onwards. However, since these datasets have been collected for different reasons a patchwork of data exists that is inconsistent in terms of capture technology, coverage and resolution. Also, many of the high altitude, mountainous areas have not been captured at all, resulting in key habitats and ecosystems remaining unmapped.

“This pattern of largely uncoordinated acquisitions would likely have continued with different programmes and projects funded from various sources. Therefore, rather than different public sector bodies securing data individually – leading to inefficiencies and discrepancies – Welsh government proposed to capture one consistent dataset to cover the whole country.

“A further key driver for the projects is the wider economic benefit as organisations and individuals will no longer have to fund separate data capture.”

Rachel Tidmarsh, managing director of Bluesky International, said: “We are delighted to be working with Natural Resources Wales on this nationally significant project. As a team we have great experience delivering large-scale projects of this nature to the required specification and timescales.”

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