Bluesky Aerial Survey Data Helps London Council Identify Illegal Dwellings

March 24, 2014 -- Thermal imaging and laser scan data collected by aircraft is helping London's Harrow Council tackle the growing problem of unscrupulous landlords renting out sheds and outbuildings as dwellings. Supplied by aerial mapping company Bluesky, the map accurate thermal images are combined with detailed LiDAR measurements to give staff at Harrow Council a much better understanding of where unpermitted developments may have been erected and their potential occupation evidenced as ‘hot spots’ in the data. The Bluesky data is being combined with additional Council information such as waste collection, parking permits and noise complaints, for example as part of the government funded ‘Hot Harrow’ project.

“The combination of thermal survey data, LiDAR, Council information and additional intelligence from third parties gives us a truly holistic picture of the borough,” commented Matt Pennells, Senior GI Officer and Web & GIS Project Manager at Harrow Council. “While ‘beds in sheds’ is a serious and growing issue there are a number of other applications of this intelligence. The Bluesky data will feed into energy efficiency improvement projects and helps us tackle fuel poverty and the LiDAR data will be used for flood modelling and 3D visualisations.”

“The ‘Hot Harrow’ project with funding from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills will also allow us to develop models and working practices to share these valuable resources with residents and businesses, opening up a host of other application areas,” continued Pennells.

The Bluesky data supplied to Harrow Council included property level map accurate thermal infrared images which can be used to highlight different levels of heat loss between individual properties and ‘unexpected hot spots’. When combined with additional data, within the Council’s Geographical Information System, these images can be used to identify and target individual properties for energy efficiency works or even support with fuel bills. ‘Hot spots’ in the data may also indicate illegal dwellings requiring further investigation and have already uncovered a number of cannabis factories.

Bluesky’s ability to simultaneously capture LiDAR (Light Imaging Detection and Ranging) was an important consideration to Harrow Council. LiDAR systems use aircraft mounted lasers to accurately determine the distance between the sensor and the ground or other targets such as buildings and vegetation which in turn provides the accurate height of buildings, vegetation and the ground. “The LiDAR data is another piece in the data jigsaw,” concluded Pennells, “allowing us to identify developments not shown in other datasets such as our OS mapping and model different scenarios and options in 3D.”

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