Visit to Ordnance Survey

Our visit to the offices of Ordnance Survey in Southampton yesterday was fascinating, with a chance to get an idea for the breadth of stuff they do and learn a little more about some of their work. For those of you who may not know who the OS are, they are the National Mapping Agency for Britain.

The tour of their headquarters started off with an introduction to some of the new research projects they are working on at the moment such as innovative ways of visualising the geographic information they hold about houses, allowing them to be depicted as a 3D object, for example. Next up was a refresher on some of the details of OS MasterMap, the 'definitive digital map of Great Britain', and an overview of some of the potential applications that it could be used for.

After lunch we were taken around a number of departments within the organisation, from cartographic generalisation to their printing services and finally their photogrammetry department.

The guys who showed us the generalisation were basically demonstrating the sort of work they need to do to remove/select/alter clutter such as text from their vast database of geographic information so that they can produce useful 1:10,000 scale maps. They were completing the work that their automated generalisation algorithm started but that requires that human input at present.

The print floor was really interesting to see as we were guided from the order processing stage right through design, making of printing plates, to the actual print presses, guillotines, folding machines and finally to despatch.

The final visit of the day was to see the photogrammetry and aerial photo department who plan the flights that take photos during the summer months and then process all of the information that comes back for inclusion in a number of their products - the most obvious of which is the OS MasterMap Imagery Layer that will provide aerial photo coverage of the whole of Great Britain. They've recently invested in digital technology to simplify the process slightly, and apparently the images returned are of an even higher quality than the optical imagery they are using currently.