Bluesky and University of Leicester Use AI to Reduce Data Intensity for Smart City Applications

Bluesky UoL SPRINT  010921

Artificial intelligence is being used to speed up the creation of complex 3D city models, and make them much easier to use (less data intensive).

Leicestershire, UK, 13 September 2021 – Aerial mapping company Bluesky International and the University of Leicester are using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to make 3D models easier to use in smart city and digital twin applications. Using established mathematical techniques, the project will focus on Bluesky’s MetroVista mesh models as the basis for research into the simplification of the data without loss of detail or integrity. It is hoped the outcomes will address many of the barriers faced by potential users in the insurance, real estate and public administration sectors which can include processing time, data storage costs and energy consumption.

This latest partnership between Bluesky and the University of Leicester will be funded by the £7 million SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme. The project follows a previous collaboration to develop a new portfolio of geospatial data products for the UK insurance sector.

“We developed the new MetroVista product for smart cities and digital twin applications,” commented James Eddy, Technical Director at Bluesky International. “It’s created in a mesh format, but these models can be data intensive so we’re looking to refine our technology to ensure that we offer energy savings, reduced data handling and can make data smaller.

“With funded access to the expert team from the University of Leicester’s Applied Mathematics Group, we aim to make the technology more accessible and open up to new users. It’s a new product for many of the sectors involved in smart city and digital twin applications so this project will help us to accelerate the development of the technology and encourage people to get accustomed to it.”

Dr. Alberto Paganini, Lecturer in Applied Mathematics at the University of Leicester added, “This SPRINT project provides an exciting opportunity to apply state of the art mathematics in industrial innovation. It will have considerable impact on making digital mapping technologies accessible to new users.”

The SPRINT funded project is utilising Bluesky’s MetroVista mesh models to help develop a triangulated irregular network (TIN) simplification tool. Based on adaptive AI-guided mesh coarsening methods, an established technique used to accelerate the numerical simulation of physical phenomena, it is hoped this will reduce the complexity of the models making them easier to use and disseminate.

Captured using the world’s first large format imagery and LiDAR hybrid airborne sensor, the MetroVista datasets include geographically accurate, phototextured, mesh models ready for use in 3D GIS, CAD and other modelling software. The Bluesky data also includes simultaneously captured oblique and vertical aerial photography.

About Bluesky
Bluesky International is the leading aerial survey and geographic data company in the UK producing and maintaining seamless digital aerial photography and height data on a national scale in both Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Bluesky also undertakes bespoke surveys, including LiDAR, for a range of public and private sector clients. Bluesky International operates a range of aircraft and sensors including three Ultracam Eagle Mark 3s, a CityMapper which allows the simultaneous collection of vertical and oblique imagery as well as LiDAR data, and a Galaxy LiDAR which is mounted with a thermal sensor and survey grade camera. These systems put Bluesky International in the enviable position of being able to provide customers with unique and cost-effective geospatial solutions. As well as being an established and respected aerial survey company Bluesky International is also highly innovative and continually strives to develop new products and services by embracing new technology and methods. This has resulted in the development of some unique products such as the National Tree Map (NTM). These datasets underpin long term contracts with local and central governments and many major blue-chip companies from a range of market sectors including financial services, utilities, telecoms, web portals, construction and environment.  Bluesky International has offices in the UK, US, Republic of Ireland and a dedicated production centre in India.  

About the University of Leicester
The University of Leicester is led by discovery and innovation – an international centre for excellence renowned for research, teaching and broadening access to higher education. It is among the top 25 universities in the Times Higher Education REF Research Power rankings with 75% of research adjudged to be internationally excellent with wide-ranging impacts on society, health, culture, and the environment. The University is home to just over 20,000 students and approximately 3,000 staff. Find out more:

SPRINT provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities. SPRINT helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies. SPRINT is supported by Research England, the Scottish Funding Council and the UK Space Agency. It is being delivered by a consortium of five of the UK’s leading space universities, led by the University of Leicester and including the University of Edinburgh, The Open University, University of Southampton and University of Surrey.