Bluesky 3D Laser Maps AONB for Archaeological Studies

Leicestershire, UK. 10 November 2016 – Aerial mapping company Bluesky has used aircraft mounted lasers to create 3D maps of potentially important archaeological sites in Devon. Funded by Historic England (formerly English Heritage), the LiDAR surveys were commissioned by Devon County Councils Historic Environment team with support from the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and The East Devon AONB. Using a range of visualisation techniques, the Bluesky LiDAR data will be modelled to provide accurate representations of earthwork remains, providing new information for known monuments and revealing previously unknown sites. The Bluesky LiDAR data has already been used to provide valuable information in advance of a public consultation on road improvement works on the A30 trunk road.

LiDAR data is a valuable tool in archaeological landscape studies as it provides a very accurate model of the ground surface, commented Cain Hegarty, Project Manager at AC Archaeology and part of Devon County Councils Historic Environment Team. The data can be re-visualised in a number of ways to give multiple views of the same site, and in wooded areas can be used to reveal features that are often inaccessible to archaeological field surveys and opaque to traditional aerial surveys.

Due to its quality and detail, the Bluesky LiDAR data can also be used to provide accurate georeference for archaeological features visible on historic aerial photography but not on more recent images. The data also has the potential to provide further insight into the historic landscape through techniques such as such as viewshed analysis.

The three locations captured by Bluesky were in the East Devon and Blackdown Hills AONB, all previously under-mapped and under-studied but thought to be of great archaeological potential. The first transect of LiDAR targeted the western scarp of the Blackdown Hills, an area known to have been important in the Roman iron industry and locally significant for whetstone mining. The second study area was the naturally and culturally important landscapes of the Pebblebed Heaths, while the third and largest transect extended from Sidmouth north-east to the Blackdown Hills, taking in the route of the A30.

The Bluesky LiDAR surveys were carried out as part of the Historic Englands National Mapping Programme (NMP), developed for the identification, mapping and recording of archaeological sites and landscapes from aerial photographs and other remotely sensed data. The archaeological survey is being carried out by historic environment consultancy specialists, AC Archaeology, with the new information being recorded directly into Devon County Councils Historic Environment Record (HER). The NMP methodology and standards provide the means for expert aerial interpreters to identify and record information to a consistent standard, in order to enhance the understanding of past land use and aid the identification and analysis of archaeological landscapes and monuments.

About LiDAR
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.

About Bluesky
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.

About AC Archaeology
AC Archaeology is an independent commercial archaeological consultancy and contracting organisation with offices based in Wiltshire and Devon providing advice on historic environment issues to developers, local authorities, and national bodies. AC Archaeology has a long track record, with many years’ experience of providing dependable and professional services for projects in the heritage management sector. Established in Wiltshire in 1991 as a partnership, the business became AC Archaeology Ltd in 2007 and expanded to include a Devon office. Operating throughout the UK the AC Archaeology team works to the standards and code of conduct of the Institute of Field Archaeologists.

About the Devon County Council Historic Environment Team
The Devon County Council Historic Environment Team promotes the protection, appropriate enhancement and enjoyment of archaeological sites and monuments, historic buildings and historic landscapes and townscapes. It also promotes sustainable access to them. The Historic Environment Team maintains the Devon County Historic Environment Record (HER) and provides related specialist advice on development management, land management and other historic environment matters. It also works with communities and partners to promote historic environment projects that research, record, manage and interpret Devons rich heritage.