Advances in electronics, camera technology and small unmanned aircraft have created a new generation of survey and site data acquisition that is affordable and adaptable to the needs of developers and planners.
Whether planning a city holiday or outdoor adventure, or satisfying curiosity about what a former neighbourhood or childhood home looks like now, it’s easy to use something like Google Earth to look at the landscape or the city from both a 2D and 3D perspective, then wander down streets and explore neighbourhoods, or assess the gradient of a climb in a virtual environment.
While technology has changed dramatically, the principles behind stereogrammetry (deriving 3D geometry from aerial photography) have been around since the early 18th Century. Our ability to comprehensively map the Earth only came about in 1985 with the advent of Global Positioning Systems (GPS). The subsequent creation of geo-referenced aerial imagery spawned an explosion in aerial mapping and data that feeds our increasing need for location-specific information.
Until recently, the technology to capture and map the landscape was beyond the reach of most; but advances in electronics, camera technology and small unmanned aircraft have created a new generation of survey and site data acquisition that is affordable and adaptable to the needs of developers and planners.
Landscape architect Peter Wilder joined Boffa Miskell in May of this year, and brings considerable experience in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) in land mapping. When running his own consultancy in London, Peter needed a method of obtaining accurate site data in places where there was often limited access or challenging terrain.
“We originally used UAV’s for capturing aerial imagery of large mining site restoration project, but quickly found that we could produce highly accurate maps of landform to complement our work in surface water management,” explains Peter.
“This soon became a separate enterprise, and within a few years was one of the leading providers of aerial mapping in the UK, carrying out survey of structures and producing baseline data for national flood mapping projects and large scale infrastructure projects such as road and rail networks.”
Attracted by the possibility to combine drone technology with land planning, ecology and bio-security, Peter relocated to New Zealand and brought with him a fleet of six UAV’s ranging in size from small quadcopters like the Mavic Pro to large fixed-wing aircraft like the Applied Aeronautics Albatross with a 3m wingspan and 5 hour flight time.
“There’s an exciting opportunity to integrate drone technology into Boffa Miskell’s existing BIM and GIS capabilities and to explore other sensing techniques such as thermal imaging and hyperspectral analysis in our arsenal of site assessment capabilities,” says Peter.
“The use of UAV’s isn’t just restricted to site survey and appraisal. There are plans to integrate the use of drones into construction site monitoring, landscape management and combining it with patter recognition algorithms to assess change over time. We are currently able to produce site orthomosaic images and digital elevation models to sub 50mm accuracy and can cover site areas up to 1500Ha in a single day.”
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For further information please contact Peter Wilder
24 October 2019