Ordnance Survey To Map The Earth From A Big Drone

By Holly Brockwell on at

British mapping institution Ordnance Survey is sending a massive drone into the skies to take high-res photos of Earth.

Created by British company Astigan, which was founded and is part-owned by Ordnance Survey, the solar-powered drone will fly at 67,000 feet -- that's about twice the height of commercial planes. It can keep going round the planet (or across it, if you're a fool flat earth type) for up to three months at a time, circling the earth four-and-a-half times in that period.

Known as a high-altitude pseudo-satellite, or HAPS, Astigan will take higher-res images of earth than are currently possible using satellites. However, they're not for us Google Maps users -- they're mostly intended for businesses. Ordnance Survey is willing to partner with companies who want to use them for things like tracking global warming, though.

If the craft reminds you of Aquila, the internet drone Facebook had planned back in the day, there is a link: its base of operations is Aquila's old factory.

Business Minister Lord Henley comments:

"The UK has a particularly successful track record in mapping and associated technology. This exciting new unmanned aircraft project is a brilliant example of the innovative thinking behind our modern Industrial Strategy and should lead to global business opportunities.

As well as having the potential to support key government objectives such as upgrading the UK’s infrastructure, it could benefit emerging technological areas such as smart cities and self-driving vehicles which both rely on accurate 3D mapping."

If you're worried that this is all a secret project to watch us from Big Brother spy drones, please rest assured that 1) you can't identify people from the tops of their heads, no matter how unique the bald spot, and 2) if you're going to worry about surveillance from anyone, it's probably not Ordnance bloody Survey.

Main image: Astigan