Bluesky to 3D Laser Map Environmental Features in Ireland

Leicestershire, 20 March 2016 Working on behalf of the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) and state forestry company Coillte, Bluesky is capturing 185,000 hectares of high resolution LiDAR data in Ireland. Using aircraft mounted lasers, the resulting 3D maps will be used to inform various protection schemes for Clean Drinking Water and Irelands adoption of the EU Water Framework Directive. The Bluesky LiDAR maps will also be used to improve knowledge of the composition of Irelands state owned forests. Data capture, using a fleet of dedicated survey planes, commenced in summer 2016 and is due for completion early 2017, and covers various locations across Ireland.

As part of their remit as Irelands earth science agency, GSI collates and hosts a number of geological databases, including karst features. Karst is a term used to describe distinctive landforms that develop in limestone, such as sink holes and caves. By mapping their location, GSI can enhance their understanding of groundwater flow, sources of drinking water, potential contaminant movement and the susceptibility of collapses occurring for example sinkholes.

Historically these features have been mapped either directly in the field, which is labour intensive and time consuming, or using historic maps and photographs, commented Koen Verbruggen, Director, GSI. As a result, the karst database, which currently holds in excess of 7,000 features, is known to be incomplete. The Bluesky LiDAR data will be essential in continuing our work to update and expand this valuable resource.

Coillte manages almost 450,000 hectares of Irelands state owned forests, and is charged with protecting and enhancing this significant national resource whilst ensuring that it is used productively. To achieve this remit, Coillte requires reliable and up to date information pertaining to the resource. Coilltes multi-source forest inventory is designed to meet this objective by combining remotely sensed data with operational field returns and targeted field assessments.

Point cloud data, produced from LiDAR projects such as the Bluesky one, enables us to estimate key forest parameters to unprecedented detail, including stand canopy height, individual tree heights and mean volume per hectare, added Liam Malone, Head of Resource Planning, Coillte Forest. This can be achieved more efficiently and cost effectively than by conventional, field based surveys.

By working in partnership, GSI and Coillte can take advantage of economies of scale, concluded Rachel Tidmarsh, Managing Director of Bluesky International. They can refine the data capture to their own requirements and still benefit from the highest resolution, most up to date, accurate and quality data.

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 a Teledyne Optech Galaxy LiDAR system integrated with a PhaseOne camera and thermal sensor. 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. The integrated Galaxy LiDAR system, which includes thermal and aerial photography cameras, places Bluesky at the forefront of this technology and in the enviable position of being able to provide customers with unique and extremely 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 GSI
The GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF IRELAND (GSI), founded in 1845, is the National Earth Science Agency. It is responsible for providing geological advice and information, and for the acquisition of data for this purpose. GSI produces a range of products including maps, reports and databases, and acts as a knowledge centre and project partner in all aspects of Irish geology. It is a division of the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment (DCCAE) and has about 70 multi-disciplinary staff.

About Coillte
Coillte is a commercial company operating in forestry, land based businesses, renewable energy and panel products. Coillte’s core purpose is to enrich lives locally, nationally and globally through the innovative and sustainable management of natural resources. The company employs approx 1,000 people and was established in 1988. It owns over 445,000 hectares of land, about 7% of the land cover of Ireland. Coillte manages its forests to deliver social, economic and environmental benefits.