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3-D aerial surveys of Maltese islands being carried out

Article extracted from http://www.timesofmalta.com [14 March 2012]

3-D aerial surveys using innovative Lidar technology were carried out by Mepa over the past weeks.

The surveys will be used for the creation of a highly accurate three-dimensional map of the Maltese Islands. They will enable Malta to generate digital terrain 3-D models, which can be used for various applications such as urban and transport planning, environmental impact assessments, modelling of runoff water, and monitoring of land use.

These aerial surveys were carried out as part of a €4.6 million project which involves monitoring of air, water, soil, radiation and noise and 3D terrestrial and bathymetric surveys. This project co- financed by the European Regional Development Fund, which provides 85% of the project’s funding and the Government of Malta, which finances the rest under Operational Programme 1 - Cohesion Policy 2007-2013 - Investing in Competitiveness for a Better Quality of Life.  

The contract for these aerial surveys and their subsequent data processing was won by German company Terraimaging through an open tender procedure. The aerial survey utilised Lidar technology whereby heights of the terrain, including building heights, are scanned using laser technology. This technology is a first for Malta allowing a bird's eye view of heights to be obtained at very high accuracies. Such laser mapping is highly automated from flight planning, to data acquisition, to the generation of digital terrain models.

Another first-timer for Malta was the acquisition of oblique images acquired during the aerial survey. Unlike traditional aerial photography which only gives an overhead view, oblique images are taken at an angle. This means that a feature, such as a house, or a building, can be viewed from the front, back and sides. These images will also help update MEPA's current digital aerial maps.

In the meantime, data on air, water, radiation and soil will also be acquired within the project, which will be completed in June 2013.

Project Leader Elaine Sciberras noted that, "the project will enable Malta to obtain valuable environmental information both for EU reporting obligations as well as to improve environmental policies and planning.

“The innovate aerial data acquired is crucial to providing a 3D spatial element to the environmental data being acquired. This will enable enhanced environmental analysis and planning."

The ERDF project also involves enhancement of the national monitoring programmes on air, water, radiation, soil and noise, the procurement of equipment, and training of staff.

In the coming months, Terraimaging will be processing the data acquired from the aerial surveys. Another 3D scan will be taken in summer, measuring sea depths within one nautical mile from the coastline.

This resultant 3D bathymetric scan and the 3D terrain scan will then be merged to form an integrated 3D perspective for the Maltese Islands.

All data from this project will be viewable from a web portal, currently being designed, known as a Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS), which will be launched towards the end of the project in June 2013.