IT maps out new perspectives on land conservation

Aerial photography, allied to IT data systems, offers a new perspective on the surveying and management of a wide range of land and conservation operations. In a recent development aerial photography company BlueSky has created a digital photo-map of a large area of the Norfolk Broads on behalf of the Broads Authority. The total area flown will comprise 557 km2 of the Broads Executive Area, which covers all the river valleys in the area. Flown at 25cm ground resolution the photography provides a detailed snap shot of the region for the purposes of conservation, planning and day to day management of this popular tourist area.

The Norfolk Broads is a unique area of water, grazing marshes, fen and woodland, and home to some of Britain's rarest plants and creatures. The country's largest protected wetland, the Broads is designated under separate legislation with a similar status to a National Park but also meets the requirement for the particular interest of navigation. The Authority has an archive of aerial photography dating back to the mid 1970s but digital files for use within a Geographic Information System have only been available since 1999. BlueSky completed 75% of the flying programme in 2004 with the balance scheduled for May 2005 to coincide with new reed growth amongst the wetland vegetation.

"The aerial photography has many uses and users, ranging from conservation management to planning applications and enforcement," said Conservation Officer Sue Stephenson. "Since this is a largely man-made environment with much of the area below sea level its very important for us to be able to actually see the impact of previous work such as scrub clearance, plan new work and monitor change over time. The photography is used in our GIS where we can overlay maps and previously flown imagery. It is especially useful for planning future management scenarios; for example we are looking closely at the possibility of returning areas adjacent to the floodplain to a more semi-natural habitat, and working from an aerial perspective is extremely useful in such visioning exercises."

BlueSky provides a wide range of mapping including digital aerial photography that covers every inch of England, Wales and much of Scotland. As well as undertaking aerial photo surveys, the company also provides other remote sensing such as LIDAR, thermal surveys, oblique aerial photography and a host of photographic processing services including 3D visualisations.

Promap offers aerial photography online In another recent development in aerial photography services, Promap now offers aerial photography online. By creating alliances with three of the UK's leading aerial photography suppliers, UK Perspectives, Getmapping and Cities Revealed, users of Promap's online service will be able to access a wide range of photographs all from one convenient place. The modern imagery will provide surveyors, architects, estate agents, developers and house builders direct online access to up-to-date, digital aerial photography providing detail down to street level within the UK. This imagery will enable Promap customers to view, preview, customise and download a high-resolution image of any property they select, to bring context to maps and provide a clear and uninterrupted view of what is actually on the ground. Richard Pawlyn, Managing Director of Landmark Property and Environment, comments, "by combining imagery from the three suppliers, uniquely through Promap our customers will be able to compare availability, price, quality and the date the pictures were taken, between the providers giving them the choice of photograph that best suits their requirements." To access the imagery, users need to first register with Promap. Registration is free and the service is charged on a pay-as-you-use basis. The aerial photographs can be accessed with the option to search using a place name, postcode or national grid reference, or selected onscreen directly off the Ordnance Survey mapping. A preview can then be viewed along with the photograph information prior to selecting which supplier's image to purchase and download. Once the image has been purchased customers can zoom in and out, navigate around and use Promap's extensive, free drawing tools to annotate the photograph.

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