Laser scanners to map Norfolk in project to reduce flood risk
PUBLISHED: 07:17 13 January 2018
Hi-tech specialised laser scanners will be used to map Norfolk’s entire landscape as part of a project to map England by 2020.
The data gathered from the ambitious Environment Agency (EA) project will be used to assess flood risk and inform conservation work.
An EA spokesman said all of Norfolk would be mapped using aircraft equipped with laser scanners.
“We’re surveying Norfolk this year subject to weather conditions. We’ve divided the country into 227 ‘blocks’ and have scheduled these in for surveying over the next three winters.
“This includes all of our national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and sites of special scientific interest giving us better, more complete information about our countryside and urban areas.”
Surveying is conducted in winter because there are fewer leaves on the trees allowing for a clearer picture of the ground.
The laser mapping forms part of a £2.5b project that the agency is spending on reducing flood risk to homes and businesses across the country.
“In terms of flooding, the project is all about making the most of new technology to prepare for and respond to floods – including drones and aeroplanes, remote-controlled boats and state-of-the-art incident command vehicles,” said the spokesman.
“We’re more efficient at gathering this information than ever before, and the environmental benefits that can be achieved using this data are priceless.”
As well as being used to understand flood risk, the data will also be made available for free to the public and industry to be used by archaeologists, environmental and urban planners, and even gamers to make accurate 3D models of the landscape.
The total area to be mapped covers 130,000km2 – equivalent to 32 million football pitches.
Currently about 75pc of the country is mapped but with only sporadic coverage of upland areas.
Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the EA, said: “This ambitious project will enhance our understanding of England’s unique natural features and landscape, helping us to better understand flood risk, plan effective defences and fight waste crime.”
Laser mapping - how it’s done
The Environment Agency has been using lidar – light detection and ranging – technology for 20 years to better understand flood risk.
Maps are created by aircraft equipped with laser scanners, which measure the distance between the aeroplane and the ground.
The data collected can then be used to plan flood defences across whole river catchments.
Other organisations across the Defra group also use the data to help improve the environment – Natural England uses it to assess wildlife habitat and Forestry Commission use it to understand more about the country’s tree cover.
In 2015, the Environment Agency made 11 terabytes of lidar data available to the public.
It has been downloaded more than 500,000 times and has even helped archaeologists uncover lost Roman roads. The new data will be better quality than ever before thanks to the most up-to-date laser technology that will reveal features more clearly.