Coalville, Leicestershire, 04 August 2016 An aerial survey using aircraft mounted lasers has revealed previously undiscovered evidence that might potentially help to dispute accusations of a lack of determination by Welsh soldiers during the first Battle of the Somme in the Great War of 1914-1918. Aerial mapping company Bluesky flew an area of northern France called Mametz Wood, capturing accurate 3D measurements of the terrain and ground cover. Specially commissioned by Bearhug TV, the Bluesky LiDAR survey revealed two distinct and previously unrecorded topographies for further investigation and analysis.
The Bluesky data allowed the experts to read the landscape from the air, seeing through the trees and vegetation, commented the programmes producer, Louise Bray of Bearhug TV. This revealed a number of clues in a never before seen landscape. It was hoped that these discoveries might give a better understanding of the difficulties faced by the soldiers on the ground.
In the years since 1916, there has been uncertainty as to why Mametz Wood proved so hard for the Welsh Soldiers to clear; there were even accusations of a distinct lack of push. As part of a BBC TV documentary which explored the history of Welsh soldiers on the Somme through the eyes of rugby player Gareth Thomas, the evidence revealed by Bluesky LiDAR data was used to evaluate the topography of landscape and help the archaeological team focus their efforts on the ground.
Using specialist software, the Bluesky LiDAR data was stripped of tree cover and other features to reveal the bare earth surface. The resulting moonlike image clearly showed two crater-like features with rectangular sides, so, not shell holes, which were not on any other map. To the east of these anomalies was another, more subtle feature, also not depicted on war time maps or in reconnaissance information.
The first feature identified from the Bluesky LiDAR survey turned out to be a pre-war quarry. Not depicted on maps at the time, this could very well have stopped the troops in their tracks, continued Bray. However, the second anomaly turned out to be far more significant.
A series of deep interconnected German trenches was discovered, which the experts say was incomparable on the entire Somme battlefront. This was a major new discovery that would never have been made without the Bluesky LiDAR data, and might finally allow accusations of lack of determination on the part of the Welsh troops to be put to bed!
The programme Wales at the Somme: Gareth Thomas and the Battle of Mametz Wood is available to view for a limited time only at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07jj41w/wales-at-the-somme-gareth-thomas-and-the-battle-of-mametz-wood
In order to capture highly accurate LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data a survey aircraft equipped with a system of lasers is used. 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.
Bluesky is a specialist in aerial survey including aerial photography, LiDAR and thermal data using the very latest survey technology, including two UltraCam Eagles and an Orion M300 LiDAR system. An internationally recognised leader with projects extending around the globe, Bluesky is proud to work with prestigious organisations such as Google, the BBC and Government Agencies. Bluesky has unrivalled expertise in the creation of seamless, digital aerial photography and maintains national off the shelf coverage of aerial photography, DTM and DSM through an on-going three-year update programme. By purchasing a world first sensor for the simultaneous capture of LiDAR, Thermal and Aerial Photography data, Bluesky is in the enviable position of being able to provide customers with unique and cost effective solutions. Bluesky is leading the way in developing innovative solutions for environmental applications, including the UKs first National Tree Map (NTM), solar mapping and citywide heat loss maps and is currently developing noise and air quality mapping products. www.bluesky-world.com