Okay first up regular readers know I like 3D and I like urban stuff so this news piece is not off topic. However I’ve not normally done too much news/press release stuff before. Mainly because I don’t always think it reads well or is genuine enough for what is really a personal blog. Recently I have changed my mind a little, if the news is relevant to my work and I think of interest to others I will write about it. I will always make clear whether I’ve had any favours or payments thrown my way, but I’m not looking for that. Okay on with a news piece that interests me and might interest you and I have definitely not been approached to run this or given any money to do this post.

Well initially this didn’t look like new news to me “Bluesky Purchases UK’s First Leica CityMapper” which came up in my twitter feed from ‘Directions Magazine’. I remembered back in November 2018 there was a similar (ish) news piece about how Bluesky were using the Leica CityMapper… clearly Bluesky were impressed with this thing called CityMapper by leica and had decided to buy it for use with it’s customers….

One sensor now collects all the data you need to create any data product and allows you to create the most detailed geospatial base layer, the SmartBase. Collect and process oblique and nadir imaging as well as LiDAR data plus derivative products, from orthophotos and oblique angles to point clouds and 3D models.

Leica Geosystems –

Leica’s CityMapper is advertised as the worlds first: “hybrid airborne sensor combining oblique and nadir imaging as well as a LiDAR system into one sensor”. Interesting yes, but what does it all mean? Well there are a few ways of creating your 3D city map from simple 2D polygons, and attribution to massive point clouds.

Cohesive Datasets

From just raw point clouds to stereo imagery each data type has traditionally been captured on separate sensors. For areas and projects I’ve worked on they’ve not always been captured using the same plane at the same time. If this is the case then matching data like this (same for creating better detailed 3D city models) becomes harder. This is because ground features will change over time or maybe covered depending on the time of year. In an ideal world LiDAR and imagery should be captured together for my work. But they’ve not been. This means people who use the data are always fighting a battle to fit data together.

I prefer this kind of simple (LOD2.2) model which I can use in something like ArcGIS Pro

Hybrid Sensor

A hybrid sensor capturing imagery, oblique and nadir as well as infrared for vegetation identification. In addition to LiDAR means that you fly an area once and hopefully get perfectly synchronised data. For people like Bluesky I guess it might mean that they have produced several data types. Customers can purchase as these as and when required. Importantly should they need additional type of data of the same area Bluesky will have it. And they will also be able to integrate it easily.


It seems as well, that the sensor is part of a package. Software also plays a critical part with a product called HxMap. Whether Bluesky has this they do not say, but I sort of expect them to. As the marketing blurb says:

HxMap is the high-performance multisensor workflow for airborne sensors featuring the industry’s fastest data throughput. Process the data captured with the CityMapper in one simple, intuitive user interface and generate the SmartBase at the push of a button. HxMap is modular, scalable, upgradable and allows you to process even the largest cities.

Leica Geosystems –

Things like ‘smart cities’, ‘plantech’, ‘proptech’ and ‘city information models’ have become popular. We now more than ever need 3D basemaps to give us harmonious datasets for analysis and proper context mapping. We need our planners to have cost effective easy-to-update city models with rolling coverage to be truly useful. Perhaps this sensor is the start of that.

The main concern

As is usual of course the main concern for people like me is:

  • What kind of data do they produce?*
  • Is the data manageable (large datasets can be tricky)?
  • Is it cheap enough?
  • Oh, and what is the licence conditions?

Well, on the price front Bluesky aren’t known as cheap (that’s a good thing, btw! How does the saying go? “Buy cheap, buy twice”?)***. That is understandable as they offer premium products and have people/employees to support! From professional experience they are also known for a few licence conditions on their data.**

This new hybrid sensor is obviously a direction of travel for the survey industry. In general smaller tech and more ‘bang for your buck’. I look forward to work with data from this sensor in the near future!

Finally I’ll leave with you with Leica’s marketing video so you can make your own mind up:

*I don’t like triangulated meshes they’re data heavy and difficult to work with. Historically I prefer simple geometries to embed my own data in and which can easily be replaced.
**I love the National Tree Map dataset from Bluesky. But in the past I’ve been confused about the licensing and I hate having two tiers. I’d rather purchase it once and use it forever rather than have to licence it every year… I’ve been told you can purchase NTM outright as well.***

***Post was amended on 5th of April 2019 to reflect potential errors of fact regarding NTM licencing and also removing some ‘snark’ from where it shouldn’t have been (now you’re curious what I wrote aren’t you??)


  1. Hi!

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