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Environment Agency to Lidar map England's entire landscape by 2020

lidar mapping

The Environment Agency has announced plans to map England’s entire landscape by 2020, using the data to assess flood risk and inform conservation work.

Using aircraft equipped with laser scanners, the Environment Agency will map all 130,000km2 of the country, including rivers, fields and national parks – equivalent to 32M football pitches.

As well as being used to understand flood risk, the lidar 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.

Currently about 75% of the country is mapped but with only sporadic coverage of upland areas. The new project, beginning this winter, will cover all of England’s national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) and sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) such as the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales.

The Environment Agency has been using lidar 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.

In 2015, the Environment Agency made 11 terabytes of lidar data – equivalent to 3 million MP3 songs – available for free to the public as open data. Since then, the data has been downloaded more than 500,000 times. The data has helped archaeologists uncover lost Roman roads in the north of the country.

The Envrionment Agency’s chief executive James Bevan 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.

“I’m pleased we are able to gather, use and share such valuable data to contribute to environmental improvements and conservation. It’s just one of the many ways the Environment Agency is using technology to help people and wildlife.”

The new data will also be better quality than ever before, as the Environment Agency will map the whole country at 1m resolution by 2020, to reveal the features and details of the terrain more clearly.

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.

For more information about the project click here

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