Aerial LiDAR with Central Alliance

On the east coast of the United Kingdom lies the North York Moors National Park. Sat between the towns of Middlesbrough and Scarborough, the park covers an area of 1,436 km2 and meets the North Sea with a 42 km strip of heritage coastline. Like a lot of the UK’s coast, this stretch is prone to erosion from the sea.

As part of ongoing efforts to reduce coastal erosion and prevent landslides, Central Alliance came to us to help them survey the Moors’ coastline. They had been tasked with finding out how aggressively the cliffs were being eroded. The data collected would aid in the assessment of whether stabilisation of the cliffs would be required.

To carry out this assessment quickly and accurately, the use of LiDAR was to be deployed using our AS355 helicopter. Standing for Light Detection and Ranging, the process involves continuously firing a laser at the ground and measuring the returns. These returns allow the recording of a variety of things like ground profiles, building details and different analysis for vegetation such as tree height and leaf mass, among many others. In this case, the LiDAR was used to generate a ground profile of the North York Moors coastline.

New Technology

The level of detail required for this assessment could only be achieved with the use of a helicopter. While other options are available, such as fixed wing and UAV platforms, helicopters remain the only vehicle capable of carrying the equipment required to record at the highest levels of detail. A helicopter also allows low altitude flights that provides even greater detail to be recorded.

Traditionally the large LiDAR unit is mounted on the belly of the helicopter. However, Central Alliance brought with them their new, custom built LiDAR pod. This much smaller unit could be mounted on the nose of our helicopter, using the same arm we use for our camera systems. Despite its size, it still contained the LiDAR sensor, an Inertial Measurement System (IMS) and a PhaseOne camera. Being nose mountable also made it much quicker and easier to install.