Flyers draw up map of every tree
An aerial photography company has created a map of all the trees in the country, which it says could prove vital in monitoring ash dieback disease.
Bluesky International, of Coalville, used photographic and infrared images taken from the air and combined them with height data to produce the 3D map of trees across England and Wales.
The maps are already being used by a number of local authorities and utility companies and there has been interest from insurers and forestry organisations.
The firm said the map would be regularly updated so it could be used to monitor the effects of the disease which is threatening ash trees.
It is also planning to set up a web portal so experts can add the species of each tree to the map.
Bluesky managing director Rachel Tidmarsh said: "This is the most accurate tree map available nationally.
"The methodology has been quite difficult but we have produced a great product.
"With disease threatening the ash population, the creation of the tree map should prove crucial for helping manage and preserve our trees in the future.
"Trees also pose a real risk to properties and utility networks, with root damage causing subsidence and pipeline fractures and branches and falling trunks affecting overhead cables."
Bluesky this year started using an unmanned aerial drone which flies over small areas taking detailed, accurate images.
The aircraft, which is similar in appearance to a stealth bomber but with a wingspan of less than a metre, is based on military technology.
Bluesky has taken aerial photography for the likes of Ordnance Survey and Google Earth.
Ms Tidmarsh said it had taken the firm two years to develop the technology needed to create the tree map.
She said: "It is the most accurate tree map available and forestry workers and university experts will be able to add information about what species the trees are to the map.
"We also hope the general public will get involved in identifying them."
The firm is already planning to produce a similar map of trees in Scotland.
Earlier this year, US space agency Nasa completed a project to document the tree populations of America.