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Technology, Mapping, Aerial Photos etc

Environment Agency LiDAR data (England)

Under its Open Data Strategy Defra and its agencies are increasing the range of the data that they provide. As part of this strategy, LiDAR data is available for England free of charge, as a series of geo-referenced tiles. For archaeological purposes, DTM (digital terrain model) is generally most useful, as it removes buildings and vegetation.You will need suitable software to process the data, examples of which are given below.

LLE - a geo-portal for Wales (LiDAR)

Aavailable as a Historic LiDAR archive, or a LiDAR composite dataset, Natural Resources Wales have also made their LiDAR data freely available


Without question the world’s leading Open source GIS software package - and it’s free! It can even be used to process point cloud data such as LiDAR, but many people prefer to process elsewhere then import the results

IMPORTANT NOTE: At the time of writing (Jan. 2017)the Scottish Government has no plans to make their LiDAR data available to the public.

National Library of Scotland, Historic Mapping

The National Library of Scotland have digitised a whole host of old maps, including town plans, estate maps, and military maps.  

National Library of Scotland Series Maps

Various series of OS and Bartholomew maps are available, although most important for our purposes are the 6 inch to the mile Ordnance Survey maps, not just of Scotland, but also of England and Wales. Digitisation of the entire 25inch to the mile map series is in progress. There are two viewing options for the 6 inch, either as a seamless zoomable layer, or as individual sheets

Ordnance Survey Maps

The Ordnance Survey’s online version of its well known paper maps. This is unfortunately now a subscription only service. If you would like to use OS maps online for free, the best alternative is Bing, from Microsoft (see below).

Ordnance Survey Open Data

Ordnance Survey offer a range of quality assured, regularly updated products that enable you to analyse your data, build interactive websites and create stunning visuals – and they're all free. Products like OS Terrain 50, a 50m digital gridded terrain model are excellent for creating 3D terrain maps in another product such as QGIS

Bing Maps

Everyone is familiar with Google Maps, however hardly anyone seems to be aware that Microsoft’s alternative has OS mapping (to 1:25000) in the UK for free! In the drop-down box in the top right corner, Ordnance Survey is the fifth one down and easy to miss.

Fugro viewer

FugroViewerTM is a robust, easy-to-use freeware designed to help users make the most of their geospatial data.

House Prices website - LiDAR data

A highly unlikely source of processed LiDAR (DSM) data for England and Wales. The Environment Agency data has been used, so coverage is only about 50%, and of course there’s a hole where Scotland should be. The interface is easy to use, and it’s actually a very good starting point before going to the trouble of processing data yourself.

Applied Imagery Quick Terrain Reader

This free software can be used to create 3D models from pre-built digital elevation models, such as can be built in RVT (below)

RVT (Relief Visualisation Toolbox)

This very useful free software, developed by the Institute of Anthropological and Spatial Studies (IAPŠ) at the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), allows the creation of a mosaic from multiple data tiles, which can then be processed in a variety of ways. The software does not have a viewer, so you can’t see the results as you go, but with the right hardware it is capable of working with very large chunks of data.


The National Collection of Aerial Photography, based in Edinburgh, holds over 26 million aerial photos of places across the world. They are all viewable online, and coverage of Britain is reasonably  good

Britain from Above

The aerofilms collection of 96,000 high resolution images, all available online

Cambridge Air Photos

The Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photography (CUCAP) is the result of airborne survey campaigns which were started in 1947 by the pioneering JK St Joseph. Since then the collection has grown to almost 500,000 images of obliques and verticals in black and white, colour and infra-red. Virtually the whole of Britain has been covered, with the obliques depicting a wide variety of landscapes and features and the verticals being of survey quality, can be used in mapping projects. Not all images are yet available online, but an increasingly valuable resource.


Sabre is the acronym of the Society for All British & Irish Road Enthusiasts. They have a useful mapping page which gives overlays of various 20th century maps including Bartholomew and OS.


The MAGIC website provides authoritative geographic information about the natural environment from across government.  The information covers rural, urban, coastal and marine environments across Great Britain.  It is presented in an interactive map which can be explored using various mapping tools that are included.  Natural England manages the service.

Environment Agency LiDAR images (England)

Processed Lidar coverage has now been made available onscreen as a map layer, as part of the Data.Gov website, although they cannot be downloaded. 1m and 2m DSM and DTM are available. Scroll down the dataset list then click Preview on Map. When the map comes up, in the top left hand corner change the map projection to British National Grid, and click on the checkbox to the left of the Lidar dataset entry in the tree structure. The images will then load, be patient  they do take a while due to the sizes of data involved