Gaining Experience with our UAV: More on the Polish Map

We returned to the Great Polish Map of Scotland a couple of weeks ago to record some imagery using our DJI Phantom quadcopter (the smaller of our two UAVs). Despite really being intended as a ‘trainer’ for its ‘big brother’, this is proving a remarkably flexible little device for geographical investigation of the landscape. I blogged previously that we tried it out on the Kindrogan trip with the GIS Masters students and have subsequently been developing operational procedures. The device has three main uses (1) taking video imagery (2) taking still photography and (3) the creation of georeferenced ortho-photos from these still images which can be used to create terrain models. As far as the Polish map was concerned, our aim was to help our friends at and Polish-Scottish Heritage who had made the explanatory video on the map. They were keen to add better images of the map itself, which is surprisingly difficult to photograph from the ground owing to iImagets enormous size.  Thus our UAV was the ideal solution, with Bruce Gittings ably assisted by Sandy Avery and Miles MacCalman.  We were able to take both still images and video footage with its little go-pro camera. That should be controllable from a smartphone using wifi communications, but we haven’t quite mastered that yet, so instead set the camera to take continuous video or still images every half-second.  The mission was successful and one of the images is shown here.  Getting an idea of the scale of the map is difficult, so for perspective I have highlighted our two UAV operators – the pinpoints in the red circle. Although we haven’t created a terrain model from the map, that would be entirely possible and then this could be compared against an actual terrain modem of Scotland to assess the Polish map’s accuracy.  It could also be used to assess the extent of damage.  We decided this would make an interesting MSc dissertation project!

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AGI Student of the Year Success

Peter Schmiz, one of our recently graduated M.Sc. in GIS students, has received a “highly commended” in the Student of the Year awards run by the Association for Geographic Information. GIS students across the United Kingdom are eligible for this competition. Peter’s award was for his Master’s dissertation, entitled “The Effectiveness of OpenLayers within a Map Mashup: A Case Study for the Gazetteer for Scotland“.  Peter’s work is already live on thousands of entries within the Gazetteer for Scotland, making a diverse range of historical and contemporary maps to users.  GIS Programmes Director Bruce Gittings commented “I am really pleased to see Peter’s hard work recognised in this national competition, on top of earning his Masters degree with distinction. This is a great result for Edinburgh.”

EEO-AGI Scotland Seminar Review : Prof Peter Fisher : 6th Dec

Professor Peter Fisher, of the University of Leicester, presented an EEO-AGI(S) seminar, titled “Digital Elevation Models as Fuzzy Numbers”. It not only dealt with DEMs, but discussed the issue of vagueness in geography and how this should be expressed and valued in GIS analyses.

The presentation began by exploring vagueness as a philosophical question and presenting its origins in the sorites paradox. It continued with explaining fuzzy sets and fuzzy logic and concentrated on vagueness of landforms, by proving the complexity and fuzziness of the simple – at first sight – question of where is a mountain.

Prof. Fisher introduced us to geomorphometry and showed how resolution is a determining factor in deciding the morphometric class of a feature. He also explained the morphometry technique proposed by Jo Wood and implemented within his Landserf GIS. Any landform can be categorised into one of the following classes: Channelness, Passness, Peakness, Pitness, Planarity and Ridgness. Out of these peakness is the one more evident and was presented in detail, illustrated with examples of fuzzy viewsheds for Helvellyn in the English Lake District. Also Type-2 fuzzy sets for higher order vagueness were presented and an example application for Munro Mountains in Scotland was shown.

Another question posed by Prof. Fisher was how to create zones of visual influence around vague objects. By vague objects he did not mean a philosophical entity but something real, like a farm, where the exact location of the individual fields was note recorded. He showed that fuzzy buffers provided a solution.

At this point he introduced us to the concept of DEM as a fuzzy surface. The need for a DEM with multiple elevation values per location emerged especially in the use of LIDAR, where the information recorded can be referring to one of many surfaces rather than the ground. An example of height change in a sand area was shown. Measures of minimum, median and maximum elevation were made and presented separately to overcome issues in visualisation and the change in land height was calculated as a fuzzy number.

Prof. Fisher concluded that fuzzy sets in Geographical Information Systems can bring better results to the analysis procedure, showing different aspects of the subject of interest, making way for different interpretations and more interesting analytical results and that there is still lot of work to be done in this field of study by enthusiastic researchers. For the audience it was a pleasure to listen to a passionate researcher and we thank him for his inspiring presentation.

Chrysi Balta
(MSc in GIS at University of Edinburgh)

Great Polish Map of Scotland

Image1Since the 1970s, one of Scotland’s best-kept secrets has been the map constructed by Polish cartographers in the grounds of the Barony Hotel  at Eddleston in the Scottish Borders. Barony Castle had been a training base for Polish troops during the Second World War, and the map was created as a memorial to these men, who had escaped following the invasion of their country but were prepared to defend ours. Many were unable to return home after the War following the closing of the Iron Curtain and remained as valued members of the community. Some time ago I wrote a Gazetteer for Scotland entry on this unique map, which involved a visit.  It is truly a remarkable structure, a three-dimensional representation of Scotland, which is one of the largest maps of its type in the world – almost 50m in circumference.  Sadly, it is in a decaying state but an enthusiastic group – Mapa Scotland – are trying to raise funds for its restoration. I was asked by Historic Scotland to give an expert opinion on its significance, in particular its cartographic merit, and this opinion led directly to it being given the protection of B-listed status. This has all led to significant interest from a younger Polish Image2community who have come to live in Scotland more recently. These Poles have done a remarkable job in mapping out the many and varied cultural and historical links between Scotland and Poland and recently mounted an exhibition in Edinburgh to highlight these. Amongst the work they have undertaken was a  fascinating video which explains the importance of the map. Because of my interests in the map, I was asked to take part in the video. It was a great project and it was nice to be able to give something back to the community.  Like many in Scotland, I have a personal interest in the Poles who came to defend our country during WW2 – my aunt married one of these soldiers, who died a couple of years ago aged 101. Many Scots opened their homes to these men and the University of Edinburgh gave a home to Polish medical students, through its hosting of the unique Polish Medical School.