UK Construction Media

Raw laser mapping data to help make realistic city models

News   •   Jul 06, 2016 16:03 BST

The Environment Agency is releasing 175,000 square kilometres of “raw” laser mapping data that can help build better city models.

The Environment Agency have done LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) surveys to help with flood modelling and tracking changing coastal habitats.

These aerial surveys collect hundreds of millions (sometimes billions) of point heights from bouncing a laser off the landscape.

Three-dimensional ‘point cloud’ data is now being made freely available for any use and can help to build highly-detailed models of urban environments.

In March 2016, the release of LIDAR point cloud data begun, and the Environment Agency aims to make all 725 gigabytes of its point cloud archive available by July, covering 175,000 square kilometres of England.

With point cloud data users can create their own customised elevation models incorporating additional information about the type of ground feature (vegetation or hard surface) being surveyed, or the time the survey was conducted.

Jonathan Smith, Head of Data Insight at Emu Analytics, said: “It is superb for start-ups like us that the Environment Agency is making its LIDAR point cloud available as open data. Point cloud data is a step up in terms of the level of detail we can achieve in modelling infrastructure and the natural environment. We are able to define the shapes of buildings and vegetation and even discover temporary infrastructure, such as cranes.

“With the detail that point cloud provides we will be able to open up new use cases and offerings such as providing clutter data for line-of-site broadband companies or calculating the shadows nearby buildings would cast on a proposed array of solar panels.

“In general the whole Open Defra ecosystem, within which point cloud sits, allows start-ups such as ourselves to easily work with the data, enrich it, and where possible, provide it back to the open data community.”

The LIDAR surveys released by the Environment Agency as open data since September 2015, have found many unexpected uses including helping archaeologists to discover “lost” Roman roads and Minecraft enthusiasts to build virtual worlds.