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3D map of Malta being planned

Article extracted from by John Cordina [01 February 2012]

A €4.6 project to monitor environmental conditions will lead to the creation of a detailed three-dimensional photographic map of the Maltese islands, the Mepa official heading the project explained.

The EU-funded project focuses on the monitoring of air, water, soil, noise and radiation, Saviour Formosa said, and is being carried out in partnership with the University of Malta, the National Statistics Office, the Malta Resources Authority and the Environmental Health Directorate.

Due to the EU’s funding, all data collected in the project will be publicly available free of charge, Dr Formosa explained. The data will end up on a shared environmental information system which can be accessed online.

This data includes the 3D photographic map, at a resolution of 10cm per pixel. Over the next few weeks, if the weather permits, an aircraft will be flying over Malta at an altitude of 3km to scan the island in its entirety through the use of a LIDAR (light detection and ranging) camera.

Subsequent scans of the island should then take place every few years to update the map.

The scan may be carried out to help monitor changing environmental conditions, but the 3D map brings a number of additional benefits. A regularly updated three-dimensional map will show changes in the country’s landscape which simple aerial photographs may not: Dr Formosa mentioned dumping in quarries as an example.

The map will also benefit organisations and researchers who may exploit it as long as they do not subsequently charge for the mapping technology itself.

The seabed within one nautical mile of the coast will also be scanned, allowing for an update of nautical charts: In some areas, existing charts date back to the 19th century, Dr Formosa said.

The project began in 2009, and should be completed by the third quarter of 2013.