The aerial imagery is just one part of a massive programme of research around the entire UK coast, which also includes Lidar data, topographic surveys, bathymetry and habitat mapping.

APEM’s flights cover the Isles of Scilly and the South West coast from Land’s End in Cornwall to Hartland Point in Devon, as well as from the coast of Morecambe Bay all the way to the Scottish border.

Coastal monitoring and management will benefit from the thousands of highly detailed images, which will allow scientists and researchers to better understand the forces and process shaping the coastal environment.

A single survey flight over the Isles of Scilly in May captured almost 2,000 images.

APEM’s project manager, Sophie Nunn, said: “For this project we’re having to plan even more carefully than usual and be very flexible.

“We need to see as much of the coast as possible in the photographs, which means surveying them when there isn’t too much cloud around and when the tide is below the Mean Low Water Spring levels. But these very low tides only happen once every couple of weeks and no sooner has the tide gone out than it wants to come back in again.

“Then there’s the fact that low tide actually occurs at slightly different times at different places on the coast, plus the variability of the coastline from narrow strips to large swathes of sand results in different areas being exposed for much shorter times than others.

“With the changeable British weather, restrictions on sun angles for image quality and the that fact that we’re surveying one area in the South West of England and another hundreds of miles away in the North West, it’s quite a challenge.”

Once each survey flight is completed the thousands of images are downloaded from the camera system and our image analysts can get to work on them with the help of our proprietary software.

First the images are colour balanced and then stitched together using special pixel-matching algorithms that identify common features between them.

Staff creating ground control points

APEM staff recording ground control points.

Ground control data collected by APEM across the survey areas is then input into the model to enhance the geographical referencing and ensure the final orthomosaic is highly accurate.

Finally, the imagery is provided to the client in both red-green-blue and colour infrared versions in the form of 1 km tiles, matched to the Ordnance Survey grid boundaries.

All the data from the flights and other sources is being made available to the public via the Channel Coastal Observatory website.

Although the images and data is detailed enough to be useful to scientists, the photographs are not high enough resolution for individual members of the public to be identified.

If you have any queries, please contact David Campbell, associate director.
Alternatively you can email us here. Or call 0161 442 8938.