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3-D aerial surveys of Maltese Islands carried out by MEPA

Article extracted from [14 March 2012]


The creation of a highly accurate 3 dimensional map of the Maltese Islands has moved a step closer to becoming a reality, after the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA), over the past weeks carried out 3-D aerial surveys using the innovative Lidar technology.

Following these surveys, MEPA will now be able to generate digital terrain 3-D models, which can be used for various applications such as urban and transport planning, environmental impact assessments, modeling of runoff water, and monitoring of land use.

MEPA said, “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.”

MEPA said that 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 were also acquired with the aim to update MEPA’s current digital aerial maps.

MEPA said that data on air, water, radiation and soil will also be acquired within the project, which will be completed in June 2013. Dr. Elaine Sciberras, Project Leader for this ERDF project, 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.

Dr Andrea Hoffman, project leader for Terraimaging said, “We are very proud to be part of this innovative future-proof project. As a result there will be a unique data set of Malta – covering all land area, the coastal zone and the sea bottom of the whole country. We have just completed the Lidar survey that will complement the already acquired image data set. Lidar is a high end technology for the ERDF project. Elevation information is crucial for the analysis of environmental questions, for modelling and for any planning.”

Dr Hoffman concluded that “TerraImaging has been active in this field for more than 18 years. We have a long experience in getting the most out of the data – advanced interpretation allows solar potential analysis for all roofs, flood prevention, change detection and telecom planning to name only few possibilities.”

In the coming months, Terraimaging will be processing the data acquired from the aerial surveys. Furthermore, the summer months will see another 3D scan being taken – this time measuring sea depths within 1 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.