Aerial Photographers

SUAVE SiteSeer    February, 2011

Welcome to the February 2011 edition of our e-bulletin, SiteSeer.

In this issue, we'll be giving you a short update on some of our work in the archaeological, heritage and construction sectors and explaining how our aerial photographs are now being used in combination with increasingly sophisticated software to achieve many hitherto impossible results.

We'll also show you some of the advantages and savings that can be realised through our photographic services, including some environmental benefits that we've recently been able to quantify for the first time. More and more clients are recognising that UAV-based aerial photography is better for their budgets, better for their projects and better for the environment as a whole. If you'd like to see what we can do for you, please contact us on 07842 766679.


Contents

Survey of Chester Walls
   Cheshire West and Chester Council

Archaeological Mitigation Work, Barton-Upon-Humber
   Allen Archaeology

Construction at Venture Fields, Widnes
   St. Modwen / Halton Borough Council

New Technologies – Playing with Shadows

sUAVe Saves Tonnes of CO2

Further Information


Survey of Chester Walls
Cheshire West and Chester Council

The historic city of Chester has been protected by walls of some description since the Romans constructed earthen banks and wooden palisades to protect the Deva Victrix fort in AD79. The walls that are visible today are mainly medieval in origin although some surviving sections date back as far as the second century. The 3km circuit is the most complete of its kind in Britain and is both a major tourist attraction and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Maintaining the city’s famous walls is a major undertaking and the local council recently commissioned an extensive survey of the stonework to gain a clearer picture of its condition. In most places, the associated photography could be carried out on foot but, owing to a steep embankment, one section in particular demanded the use of a UAV that could come close to the wall without presenting a risk either to local people or to the sandstone structure itself. The work was completed quickly and without disruption to residents or businesses.

Significantly, the high resolution photographs captured by the on-board camera were taken with a deliberate degree of overlap, so they are ideally suited for use in 3D photogrammetric software. This makes them particularly useful for any maintenance specialist who might subsequently wish to make detailed measurements in a virtual environment. A simple demonstration of the 3D effect that can be achieved in this way can be found here on the sUAVe website.

(Photos by permission Cheshire West and Chester Council)


Archaeological Mitigation Work, Barton-Upon-Humber
Allen Archaeology

Mitigation Work, Barton-Upon-HumberBarton-Upon-Humber is a town with a rich heritage that spans nearly two thousand years of recorded history. The first major settlement occurred in the Anglo Saxon period but there is also evidence of previous Roman occupation. The town was recorded in the Domesday Book and enjoyed a period of sustained growth during the medieval period, when it operated as one of the region’s most important ports.

It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that the present day town is recognised as an area of significant archaeological interest. For this reason, Allen Archaeology was recently called in to undertake mitigation works prior to the construction of new residential properties close to the line of a medieval access route. As part of this project, the client commissioned sUAVe to assist with the recording of progress on site and a selection of the resulting images can be viewed here.

Construction at Venture Fields, Widnes
St. Modwen / Halton Borough Council

Venture FieldsVenture Fields is a major new leisure complex development in Widnes that will ultimately see the construction of a bowling centre, hotel, ice rink, restaurants and a multiplex cinema. The project will be carried out in two fast-build phases, the first of which is scheduled for completion in Autumn of this year. With site preparations complete, work has now begun and the first steelwork was erected in January.

To coincide with the start of construction, the client asked sUAVe to make the first in a series of visits to document progress on site, starting with the erection of the first beams and ending later this year when the site is ready for hand-over. The combination of high resolution photography and the UAV’s ability to operate safely at low altitudes means that managers will be able to keep a highly detailed visual record of work in progress and to use the information contained within the images to inform a variety of decisions ranging from site safety to quality control.

Photographs of the earliest phase of work can be viewed here.

New Technologies – Playing with Shadows

Todmorden Golf ClubArchaeologists have found aerial photography to be an invaluable tool over the years due to its ability to reveal subtle colour differences and patterns of shadow that are almost impossible to discern from the ground. One limitation, however, has always been that the appearance of shadows changes from one hour to the next as the sun moves across the sky. Photographs taken in the morning may show nothing of interest while a shot taken from exactly the same vantage point just a few hours later may uncover a wealth of features worthy of investigation.

Nevertheless, the swift pace of software development is now helping to remove such limitations and, while visiting West Yorkshire earlier this month, I took the opportunity to test some new techniques for myself.

The sixth fairway at Todmorden Golf Club in Cross Stone in is known to contain what the local Archaeology Advisory Service describes as an “enclosed Bronze Age urnfield” – a 37m diameter site in which a variety of Mesolithic flints, Bronze Age funerary vessels and other artefacts have been found. First discovered in 1898, it appears little more than a shallow depression on the ground but, from the air, its size and extent are quite apparent. (Click here to see a small online gallery.)

3D Todmorden GolfMy particular interest, however, was to demonstrate a new way of creating artificial shadows by means of special software that can simulate lighting from any conceivable angle. Using this in combination with basic photogrammetric techniques enables the user to change the digital light conditions at will, thereby creating distinct shadows wherever changes in ground level occur. Properly employed, this removes the need for making multiple flights over the same site and puts a valuable new survey tool in the hands of the modern archaeologist. You can watch a video animation of this by clicking here.

sUAVe Saves Tonnes of CO2

We have often noted that UAVs afford a number of distinct advantages over fixed wing aircraft and helicopters when used as a photographic platform. They can be launched at short notice directly from a site, invariably without prior clearance from air traffic controllers, and they can operate safely and comparatively quietly at very low altitudes. More strikingly perhaps, by obviating the need for pilots and long flights from the nearest airfield, UAV-based photography is also considerably cheaper. But another important benefit that can sometimes be overlooked is that UAVs require substantially less fuel than manned aircraft and, for the first time, we have been able to quantify this in terms of environmental impact.

C-Tech Innovation, the provider of the North West Eco-Innovation Programme, recently worked with sUAVe and carried out a simple independent analysis of the relative performance of UAVs and manned aircraft. Unsurprisingly, the UAVs won out and C-Tech’s consultants concluded that in its first full year of trading, sUAVe’s activities had yielded an environmental saving of more than 4 tonnes of CO2. Moreover, as we scale up our operations for 2011, C-Tech has estimated that this figure is likely to rise towards an impressive 26 tonnes. For clients to whom environmental sustainability and the carbon footprint of a scheme is important, this represents one more good reason to choose UAV-based photography.

Further Information:

For details of all our latest heritage and archaeological projects, please visit our regularly updated online gallery. If you have any questions or if you’d like to discuss a project of your own, we’d be delighted to hear from you. Please call us on 07842 766 679 or email me at Greg@SUAVEAirPhotos.co.uk.

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