Ultra-high-resolution aerial mapping data supports UK port city’s smart city aspirations


The city of Kingston upon Hull, a major port city on the UK’s northeast coast, has been photographed from the air using the latest, ultra-high-resolution survey cameras, in order to provide a detailed overview of the city’s assets and infrastructure.

Captured by aerial mapping company Bluesky, the 5cm-pixel resolution imagery is so detailed that road markings, street furniture and property boundaries are all clearly visible. It is hoped the new digital photomap will provide a common platform for data and systems for developing a range of applications to improve connectivity, inclusivity and joined-up decision making in support of the Hull City Council’s (HCC) smart city ambitions. With detailed on-street views accessible from the desktop, the aerial photography is also expected to save the city council thousands of pounds by reducing the need for on-site visits.

Hull City Council has been a user of aerial photography since 2002, with datasets updated approximately every two years. The council first took delivery of Bluesky 5cm dataset in 2016 as it began preparations to become the UK City of Culture and the latest photography was flown in June 2018, just 11 days after the survey was commissioned. The Bluesky data is deployed across the council with users ranging from call center operatives to planning officials, and from highways managers to footpath champions.

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. Using its sophisticated digital aerial photography and survey system, Bluesky is developing innovative solutions for environmental applications, including the UK’s first National Tree Map (NTM), solar mapping, and citywide heat loss maps, and is currently developing noise and air quality mapping products.

“The Bluesky aerial photography forms an integral map layer in a number of systems including our call center mapping software, our Idox planning system, and our newly procured, cloud-based, geographic intelligence platform iShare,” explained Glenn Dobson, HCC’s GIS/data solutions manager.

“The imagery is in constant use allowing staff to identify non-addressable incidents, complete asset management exercises, and provide evidence to inform investigations and possible enforcements, often without even leaving the office.”

Dobson continued, “As an authority with a relatively small geographic footprint, the decision to have regular updates is simple; the Bluesky photography provides unrivaled detail and accuracy, is more up to date, is consistent, and it more than pays for itself. On a rough calculation, the data costs less than £17 (US$18) a day. If just one person uses it for a couple of minutes, rather than having to make a site visit, then the savings to the council are potentially huge!”

Hull City Council’s town clerk, Ian Anderson, added, “Hull is well placed to press ahead with smart city ambitions with themes of connectivity and improving public services through the use of a single cross-city platform to join-up different systems, such as those for geographic information, street lighting and sensors, a priority.”  

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).