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Ordnance Survey to launch mapping drone

BBC Technology 12 Feb 2019 01:46
By Chris Fox Technology reporter
Astigan droneImage copyright Ordnance Survey

Mapping organisation Ordnance Survey plans to launch a solar-powered drone to capture higher quality images of the Earth.

Its Astigan craft will fly higher than commercial airliners at 67,000 ft (20,400m), and could circle the Earth for 90 days before it needs to land.

It will collect images and data for businesses and organisations to use.

It hopes to launch "fully operational high-altitude tests" of the craft before the end of 2019.

Ordnance Survey owns 51% of Astigan, which is based in Bridgwater, Somerset.

It operates from the same factory that once housed Facebook's Aquila internet drone project.

Image copyright Ordnance Survey

Ordnance Survey told the BBC that the existing mapping satellites orbiting the Earth cannot provide enough high resolution detail for its maps.

"Our current mapping capabilities are driven by two efforts," explained Neil Ackroyd, acting chief executive of Ordnance Survey.

"What the Astigan project does is gives us the capability of using aircraft, but quicker and at significantly lower cost."

"It's hard to see people vertically, as you can only see the top of people's heads," said Mr Ackroyd.

As well as mapping the UK, Ordnance Survey plans to offer mapping services to countries that otherwise struggle to afford them because of the cost or their large geography.

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