Bluesky uses Leica CityMapper to capture detailed 3D imagery of major UK cities


Aerial survey company Bluesky has used the Leica CityMapper, the world’s first hybrid airborne camera combining vertical and oblique imagery together with 3D laser scanning, to capture major cities throughout the UK, to provide urban planners and asset managers with new visualizations.

Using the CityMapper system, Bluesky was able to capture parts of London, Manchester and Birmingham, as well as Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Norwich, Nottingham and Oxford. Bluesky intends to increase its coverage by capturing additional towns and cities across the UK and Ireland in 2019. It is the first time this technology has been used commercially in the UK to this level.

The captured city data is currently available from Bluesky and Leica Geosystems, part of the Swedish Hexagon Geosystems group, in its constituent components of vertical orthorectified aerial imagery, oblique photographs and lidar point cloud data. Plans are in place to also include the imagery in the HxGN Content Program in the near future.

The Leica CItyMapper system includes a traditional vertical camera as well as survey-grade oblique cameras. Specially designed for 3D city modeling and urban mapping, the sensor also includes high performance lidar technology to accurately collect elevation data even into the shadows, which are common in urban environments and make photo-based data collection difficult. The CityMapper sensor also collects color infrared data, which can be used to aid greenspace mapping and vegetation studies.

Applications of the new Bluesky 3D models are expected to include urban planning, line of sight analysis, new development visualizations, environmental modeling and potentially 3D fly throughs and virtual reality experiences. Early adopters of the data include local authorities, asset managers, architects, planning consultants and other map publishers.

“The combination of multiple survey grade cameras and lidar enables, for the first time, the simultaneous capture of data for the automatic creation of highly accurate and detailed citywide 3D models, with one sensor,” said Rachel Tidmarsh, Bluesky’s managing director.

“While 3D models have been around for a number of years, they have either been prohibitively expensive for use across larger areas or of insufficient detail or accuracy. Using the CityMapper sensor, we can achieve efficient, and therefore cost effective, capture of highly detailed and accurate data, making widespread use of 3D models a reality.”

Ron Roth, geospatial content solutions product manager for airborne topographic lidar at Leica Geosystems, commented, “The CityMapper was designed for just this type of use; capturing the many layers of urban environments. We are excited to see the high-quality data Bluesky has been able to produce with CityMapper, and we are sure many customers will benefit from this capture.”

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Adam joined the company in 1994, and has been News Editor of TTT since 2009. In his other role as Circulation Manager, he helped create the original Traffic Technology International distribution list 23 years ago, and has been working on it ever since. Outside of work, he is a keen fisherman, runs a drumming band, and plays an ancient version of cricket.