Phorogrammetric Services

OS HQ Maybush | Photogrammetric Services 2

  • This page:Photogrammetry & Remote Sensing developments & production 1986-89.
  • Status : Completed [sub pages to be added in a future release]
  • First published: 10 March 2019

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Zeiss P3 Tests - Settings - March 1988

Photo credit: N/A

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This article covers the period from autumn 1986 to the end of 1989.

The Air Survey Review had resulted in a major overhaul of the unit.

OS and National Context:

A summary of the operating environment for this period:

Ordnance Survey Developments

  • OS adopts a new Mission Statement
  • GPS receivers purchased
  • OS contributes to EUREF
  • OS works with IGN France - Channel Tunnel Control
  • Two new analytical plotters ordered
  • Another 20+ towns upgraded to 1:1250 specification
  • OS maps Yemen at 1:100K using SPOT satellite imagery
  • Metric contouring programme completed
  • DFUS is now installed in 12 field offices
  • Data from total stations now incorporated i
  • OS88 data spec introduced - reduced no of feature types [1]
  • Data from total stations now incorporated in topodata
  • Utilities push OS to speed up data digitisation
  • Project 88 runs in Milton Keynes & then extended
  • New Exhibition Centre opens in North Block
  • Derived mapping to 1:10,000 scale tested
  • Topographic Database Trials [Tameside, Milton Keynes & Birmingham]
  • Vehicle navigation data research
  • Superplan service installed in OS Agents shops

[1] feature types radically rationalised to speed up the digitising process

National & External Developments

  • British Airways privatised
  • Lord Chorley geographic information report published
  • MS Herald of Free Enterprise disaster
  • General Election - no change [M Thatcher]
  • Eniskillin bombing
  • Kings Cross Tube Station fire
  • Unemployment down to 2.5m [May 1988]
  • Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea - 167 deaths
  • British Rail raise long distance fares by 21%
  • Lockerbie disaster - Pan Am flight 103 - 270 deaths
  • Hillsborough disaster - 94 deaths

Photogrammetic Services 2 Role, Operations and People:


Ordnance Survey , Romsey Road Maybush, Southampton, SO9 4DH

This was Ordnance Survey Headquarters

Photogrammetic Services was housed on the ground floor of North Block [now named Compass House]

Building still exists: Yes


Photogrammetic Services 1 & 2 was managed by a senior manager John Farrow with two middle managers ~40 staff. Dave Hockaday held the role of Technical Assistant to Photogrammetric Services.

Around late 1988 Photogrammetry was merged with Survey Computations and renamed PSC. Dave Murphy replaced John Farrow who had moved to Research & Development.

1989 Photo

The staff of Photogrammetry

This photo includes a sub set of photogrammetry staff in the courtyard of what is now Compass House.

It includes: Peter Wesley [Head of Topo Surveys], Dave Murphy [Manager P&SC], Nick Papps [BM PS2] and Dave Costard [System Manager]


Photo credit: probably OS?

PS1 & PS 2 Equipment

The equipment below reflects the situation in late 1986 - much would change.

PS1 was responsible for the planning and acquisition of photography, aerial triangulation and non-digital map production. PS2 covered digital map production and had a small development team.[

Analogue Plotting Instruments

Photogrammetic Services continued to be supported by the same equipment as listed in the 1980-82 article during this period. This was high capital cost equipment and remained serviceable.

Analytical Plotting Instruments

The modernisation of photogrammetry led to several analogue plotters being fitted with encoders and were now able to capture digital data. The data was captured into a data fuile held on a dedicated PDP-11 computer. It was transferred via disk to an edit station and the data was cleaned up.

A Kern DSR-11 analytical plotter had been purchased in addition to the DSR-1, second DSR-11 would be added during this period.


The DSR-1 was dedicated to aerial triangulation - the size of the first hard disc for this system was just 10Mb].

PS2 had two high resolution graphics screens, a Tektronix model and and a much less expensive Ramtek (which emulated the Tektronix).

Plotting Table

While all the plotting instruments (except the DSR-1) had plotting tables PS required a table to create Master Survey Documents(to send to the field for completion) and a Kern GP-1 had been purchased for this.

1989 - Survey Aircraft

Over the Yorkshire Dales:

At the end of the 1989 photography season we paid a Sunday visit to the aircraft at Blackpool.

We took a short flight over Blackpool and over the Trough of Bowland to Settle round and back to Blackpool. it was quite instructive in terms of operation (we did not take any aerial photos). We were flying just below cloud level and it was a little bumpy - I discovered that the rear of the plane is not the best location in those circumstances.

View from the camera operators chair at the rear - to Dave Murphy (right) and Mike Proctor (left). The aerial camera is in the foreground.

Unfortunately we got delayed in Blackpool and M6 traffic on the return trip and had to stay overnight in Birmingham - all three of us in the same room - a secret until now.


Photo credit: KM

Aerial Cameras

The cameras were being replaced as new technology was becoming available. A Wild RC10A camera was purchased. Later a Zeiss [?] camera with Forward Motion Compensation] would be purchased. GPS and Inertial systems would also be introduced.

Main activities of Air Survey Branch at this time:

The main activites os PS at this time were:.

  • completion of the 1:10,000 metric contouring programme
  • 1:1250 town upgrades [shared with the private sector]
  • 1:2500 reformed mapping programme
  • map updates [all scales]
Reformed Mapping Programme

The reformed mapping programme recognised that the 1:2500 Overhaul work had left weak areas in terms of positional accuracy. The original aim of the programme was to capture a skeleton of topographic features and use that to transform the remainder of the existing digital map. This rarely worked since the positional errors were not systematic. This meant capturing more new data and it got to a point where the edit of the new and old took more time than addional capture. Hence it tended towards a resurvey.

Resurvey of minor towns

There were around 20 towns being upgraded to 1:1250 in any one year and additional capacity for this came from the private sector. An example of this includes the Elgin upgrade which employed a half frame camera mounted on a helicopter [see Photogrammetry MSc dissertation - to be added ]

Digital Map Update

For the future efficient digital map update was vital but this was also a major challenge. Just as the surveyor had overlaid a hardcopy map on top of an aerial photograph we had to find a similar solution. It was called 'stereo superimposition' where the digital map is injected into the optics of the plotter viewing the photography.

In 1988 I tested two instruments fitted with superimpostion [Zeiss P3 (Germany)& Intergraph IMA (Swindon)]. Kern also manufactured a system [KRISS] that could be retro-fitted to the DSR-11. In 1989, after the merger with Survey Computations, we established a trial to determine how we miht best move forward [see Digital Map Update Trials - to be added ]

Photogrammetric Society

During the winter the Photogrammetric Society ran a series of evening lectures in Burlington House, Piccadilly. An OS minibus would take staff to these events which proved both valuable in terms of content and networking with people from the private, public and commercial sectors. The RICS also ran a simialr programme.

Personal highlights:

Following the MSc in Photogrammetry this work was a logical next step. The work commenced with the new but not very efficient technical infrastructure for PS2 a- this is described in the article below. We switched from the Kern supplied editing software to Laser-Scan's LITES2 and the entire flowline was redesigned and streamlined.

During this period I undertook my first overseas trips eg to the Zeiss factory in Oberkochen and the OEEPE LIS/GIS Seminars at EPFL in Lausanne. Stereo superimposition was a breakthrough allowing an operator to view the digital map overlaid on the stereo imagery - providing an ideal environment to map change and update the data.

Two overseas mapping projects were also undertaken - these were both ground breaking using imagery from the new French SPOT satellite.

We had some significant successes in PS and I am grateful to both John Farrow and Dave Murphy - different characters but very supportive and progressive individuals - this was a rewarding period.

Last Updated: 19 April 2018
KM v2.00

Air Survey 1979-82

OS HQ Maybush | Air Survey Branch

  • This page:Air Survey Branch Overview .
  • Status : Completed [sub pages to be added in a future release.
  • First published: 10 March 2019

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Zeiss Analogue Plotting Instrument 31 March 1982

Photo credit:KM

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This article covers the period of late 1979 to mid 1982.

Air Survey Branch was responsible for the preparation of new large scale mapping, contouring and some revision surveys. Completion was then completed on the ground.

OS and National Context:

A summary of the operating environment for this period:

Ordnance Survey Developments

  • Delays in response by Govt to Serpell Report.
  • Industrial Action due to pay restraint.
  • Peter Wesley undertakes "Study of Revision".
  • European Doppler Network adjustment published as OS SN80.
  • OS joins several external bodies incl European OEEPE
  • Over 500km of Geodetic Network observed.
  • TODDS setup [Fastrak & Ferranti] data capture system based on Vax 11/780 mini-computer
  • Total station on test.
  • Surplus drawing office staff retrain as surveyors
  • West Midlands priority for large scale map digitisation

National & External Developments

  • British Steel workers on strike
  • British Aerospace privatised
  • Public sector pay on hold
  • Utilities form National Joint Utilities Group [NJUG]
  • Michael Foot becomes Labour leader
  • Social Democratic Party party formed
  • Sinclair ZX81 luanched
  • Unemployment reaches 2.5m
  • IRA hunger strikes - 9 deaths
  • Riots: Toxteth & Woolwich
  • Inflation ~ 12%
  • Falklands War


Air Survey Branch | Role, Operations, People & Equipment:



Ordnance Survey, Romsey Road. Maybush,
Southampton, SO9 4DH

This office was Ordnance Survey Headquarters

Air Survey Branch was housed on the ground floor[1} of North Block [now named Compass House]

Building still exists: Yes

The floor was "suspended" in that it was meant to be free from external vibrations - since the mechanical instruments were very sensitive.


Air Survey Branch was managed by Major M. Neale, supported by a middle manager [Ted ?], 2-3 Chief Surveyors and ~30 staff.


Air Survey Branch was supported by the following types of equipment during this period:

Analogue Plotting Equipment

  • Wild A10 [x2] [a]
  • Wild A4 [~x12] [b]
  • Kern PG2 [x2]
  • Thompson Watts [x2]

[a]original 1970's purchase cost ~£80k each
[b] original 1970's purchase cost ~£54k each

Photography acquisition & Aerial Triangulation

  • Aerial Cameras - type unknown [2-3]
  • Stereo Comparator - make unknown

The flying unit was normally based at Blackpool using a contracted aircraft - though other aircraft may be hired in busy seasons and stationed elsewhere.

Main activities of Air Survey Branch at this time:

1:10,000 Contouring

The main programme at this time was to complete national cover of metric contours. Strangely, given the Davidson Report's commitment to metric in 1938 OS covered around 25% of Gt Britain with imperial contours before it was decided to go metric. Hence this programme was systematically resurveying some areas and filling in gaps elsewhere.

1:1,250 Resurvey

Growing small towns mapped at 1:2500 were considered for upgrading to 1:1250 after they reached certain criteria eg population >20,000. Air survey was now the standard procedure - all features visible on the stereo photographs would be plotted and the field surveyor would then complete the map. Formby was one such town (se article below).

1:2500 Resurvey

The poor positional accuracy of some 1:2500 areas (noted in the 1970s pages) occasionally led to the resurvey of those areas (usually small towns). The process was similar to 1:1250 resurvey above.

Continuous Revision - all three scales

Where local change was significant enough to make aerial photography economic then such areas were processed in air survey and completed on the ground.

Aerial Photography & Triangulation

All the foregoing activities required aerial photography and this had to be planned, programmed and executed. Easier said than done, planning was done in the winter, photo acquisition was subject the the British summer cloud cover.

Aerial triangulation was prepared for all contouring and resurvey work and for revision where survey control required strengthening. Aerial triangulation is a technique that densification of a network of control points/stations so that each overlapping pair of photos usually contains six control points [E, N & Ht].

Aerial Photography Rectification

Where aerial photographic enlargements are used ie the Air Ground method, the enlagements have to be prepared at the appropriate scale ans the nadir point determined. Post the 1:200 Overhaul Programme this work was much reduced.

Overseas mapping

Residual staff from the disbanded Directorate of Overseas Surveys started to join OS from 1983 onwards and some of these joined Air Survey. They brought the remains of a reducing overseas survey programme with them.

Out of the Ordinary

  1. Following the Hermitage training course we started work in air survey just before Christmas 1979 and witnessed something we and never seen before - elaborate Christmas decorations. It appeared to be a tradition at headquarters by the drawing office staff. The air survey section included a cardboard aircraft that travelled on a cable between two pillars. These were the dying days though and within 4-5 years they had just about gone altogether.

Personal highlights:

This period started in October 1979 with the Air Survey Operators Course at Hermitage, we were then posted to Southampton. The posting was conveniently made it easier to undertake the Surveying & Cartography course [OND-BTEC] at Southampton Technical College.

There was a lot of work variety in Air Survey (which was still 100% map hardcopy based at that time.

Last Updated: 15 Apr 2019
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Geographic Information Strategy

OS HQ Maybush | Geospatial Information Strategy

  • This page:Geospatial Information Strategy & the quest for joined up geography
  • Status : Completed [sub pages to be added in a future release]
  • First published: 10 March 2019

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JUG-T meeting at Beehive Mill, Manchester - dd mmm 2005

Photo credit: KM

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This article covers the period of autumn 2000 to summer 2011.

Working towards the goal of joined up geography and data integration.

OS and National Context:

A summary of the operating environment for this period:

Ordnance Survey Developments

  • Vanessa Lawrence appointed Director General - CEO.
  • OS MasterMap Topo is launched [Nov 2001].
  • Topographic Database work restarts [now named Phoenix] - 2001.
  • AA data copying case resolved.
  • OS MasterMap Transport Layer is launched.
  • Acacia Project [Addresses].
  • Imagery Court Case
  • 33% of users spend 25-50% project costs cleaning up data [1]
  • Topographic Database [Phoenix stopped] ~2006.
  • Additional OSMM Layers{Address, Height, Imagery ...].
  • Topographic Database [Phoenix commences - new contractors] ~2007.
  • External chairman appointed to OS Management Board
  • OS launches OpenSpace - 2008-9
  • OS releases Open Data [small-medium resolution] 2010

[1] When combining two or more organisations datasets [Project Atlantis]

National & External Developments

  • Eden Project opened Cornwall - 2001
  • General Election - [T. Blair] [2001]
  • 9/11 terrorist events in the US - 2001
  • Brixton riots
  • US invades Afghanistan - 2001
  • Address issue rumble on with Acacia et al
  • Commonwealth Games in Manchester [2002]
  • Invasion of Iraq [US, UK, Aus & Poland] - 2003
  • Cockle pickers drowned in Morecambe Bay - 23 dead
  • Freedom of Information Act - 2005
  • General Election - [T. Blair] [2005]
  • EU adopt the INSPIRE Directive - 2005
  • OpenStreetMap gains momentum - 2006
  • G Brown replaces T Blair as Prime Minister
  • UK Govt adopt "UK Location Strategy" 2008
  • UK Location Programme established [managed by Defra] 2008
  • Open Data Policy introduced - 2009 [G. Brown]
  • Change of Government - 2010 [D. Cameron]

Corporate Office Role, Operations and People:


Ordnance Survey , Romsey Road, Maybush,
Southampton, SO9 4DH

This was Ordnance Survey Headquarters

Corporate Office was housed on the 3rd floor of Central Block renamed William Roy Building.

Building still exists: No

Corporate Office role:

  • Business Strategy & Planning
  • Geographic Information Strategy
  • Government Relations incl NIMSA, Europe.
  • Internal Audit
  • Education Support
  • CEO Support

Corporate Office - Structure:

In providing the above cross business and dedicated services the Corporate Office included several small specialist teams totaling around 20 people.

This was also a very fluid environment with short term assignment to longer term and included Duncan Shiell, Dave Lovell, Elaine Owen, Phil Watts, Ian xxx, Chris Stone, Geoff May and many others.

Geospatial Information Strategy - Developments:

The strategy work involved: .

  1. Internal strategy guidance/framework/reviews
  2. External initiatives supporting better data integration
  3. External representation

As internal implementation of the strategy progressed and with serious delays to the new database the internal strategy component required less time.

More energy was devoted into the wider issues around data integration and helping users to explore solutions in terms of 'joined up geography'. This required collaboration working with external organisations in a variety of ways see "Collaboration". and a selection below. Some of these were positive and productive ventures, but not necessarily all because the challenge is significant. However the experience helped shape the overall framework.

Personal highlights:

During this period ......[TBC] .

Last Updated: 19 April 2019
KJM v2.00

Photo & Computer Services

OS HQ Maybush | Photogrammetric Services 2

  • This page: Photogrammetric Services Branch 2.
  • Status : Completed [sub pages to be added in a future release].
  • First published: 10 March 2019

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SPOT Image Offices, Toulouse 08 June 1990

Photo credit: KM

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This article covers the period start of 1990 to summer 1991.

Further developments in photogrammetry and digital map data.

OS and National Context:

A summary of the operating environment for this period:

Ordnance Survey Developments

  • Survey Regions drop to 4 [East Midlands close]
  • DFUS expanded to another 12 offices total:89 [1992]
  • Work starts on OS GPS network to replace the triangulation network
  • Another 57km of Geodetic Leveling undertaken
  • OS tests GPS with the aerial camera
  • Higher capacity in PS via new tech & shift working
  • OSCAR road centreline data product released
  • OS positions and adopts NTF as data format
  • OS becomes an "Executive Agency" under Next Steps scheme
  • Topo Database Trial concludes clean data the priority
  • Total Quality Management [TQM] Event
  • OS Bicentenary at the Tower of London
  • New Director General [D Rhind]

National & External Developments

  • 200,00 protesters in London poll tax riots
  • Strangeways Prison Riot
  • Inflation at 9.4% [1990]
  • IRA bomb at London Stock Exchange
  • Iraq invades Kuwait.
  • £ sterling joins the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.
  • Thatcher resigns | replaced by John Major
  • Channel Tunnelers meet up.
  • Tax-exempt spec'l savings acc'ts (TESSAs) introduced
  • IRA bomb 10 Downing Street
  • Tim Berners-Lee introduces WorldWideWeb

Photogrammetry & Survey Computations structure & production:

The were three branch managers in PSC covering Stuart Trigg, Mike Proctor & KM:

  1. Survey Computations headed by Stuart Trigg and responsible for all survey instrument and GPS processing.
  2. Photogrammetry-1 headed by Mike Proctor and responsible for all aerial photography, aerial triangulation and non digital data capture.
  3. Photogrammetry-2 headed by KM and responsible for digital data capture.

All three areas were also involved in repayment work at that time.

The primary work of photogrammetry continued to be small town upgrades to 1:1250 and 1:2500 reformed mapping.

1991 Photo

The staff of Photogrammetry-2


It includes John Horton [ex Penrith 1975] and Paul Newby [met in Llanrwst 1975 and was PSC Manager at this time] .


Photo credit: probably bicentenary > OS?

Photogrammetry-2- new developments:

Stereo Superimposition

The digital data capture branch took forward the accepted results the data updating trials [1989]. A business case was submitted for the additional Kern KRISS upgrade and LITES2 enhancements.

Shift Working

The high capital costs [the KER DSR was over £100K and the upgrade another £30k] led to discussions around maximising the potential of our equipment. This led onto the prospects of shift working since it was much easier now for operators to swap jobs in the machine. Following discussions with staff and personnel shift working was implemented [2 shifts a day]

Digital Repayment Projects

OS had committed to extending into more repayment work - partly driven by the recession and drop in new construction and surplus survey capacity. The Topo Services argument referred to surplus people uin the field. These projects very often required photogrammetric input and we had undertaken two highway bypass surveys a; 1:500 scale in the previous year. We were encouraged to take the lead and won one of two we submitted. It was a fraught process from start to finish a) the valley was flooded when we wanted to take photography, the camera's forward motion compensation did not properly, geodetic services failed to complete all control points ....

The client was one of the large civil engineering firms in London (they had been involved in the Thames Barrier), However they had only just taken possession of their first graphics workstation. The contract required film plots of the route and the data on tape. The MOSS design was all done through parameter settings which eventually emerged as paper plots. We overran the budget, not for the first time - we could have done without this to be honest.


One of the benefits of the repayment work was to look more closely at work rates. In photogrammetery these were formed from labour rates, equipment amortisation costs, servicing, management overheads etc. For the FY 199x-9x I took a hard look at all the costs and managed o slightly reduce the overall rate per hour. When the final rate was published the rate had been increased by over 10% [to cover corporate overheads] and a letter of complaint went back. it was to contribute to a change in the way the organisation was operated in the near future.

Personal highlights:

During this period my role was Branch Manager of PS2. During this period I presented the Yemen 1:100,000 Mapping by SPOT Imagery Project to the 10th EARSeL symposium — new European systems, sensors and applications: 5–8 June 1990, Toulouse-France. A first overseas presentation.

Last Updated: 19 Apr 2018
KM v2.00

Geo Data Strategy - N's Projects

OS HQ Maybush | Geospatial Data Strategy [& the N's Projects]

  • This page:Geospatial Data Strategy.
  • Status : Completed [sub pages to be added in a future release]
  • First published: 10 March 2019

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Svalbard -spring 2000 OEEPE meeting - 19 June 2000

Photo credit: KM

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This article covers the period from autumn 1998 to late 2000.

It covers the repositioning of OS led by the new DG and the consequences.

OS and National Context:

A summary of the operating environment for this period:

Ordnance Survey Developments

  • Geoffery Robinson appointed Director General - CEO.
  • Internal reorganisation & internal market abandoned.
  • OS purchases new colour printing press.
  • OS expands the Explorer map range nationally
  • OS becomes a Trading Fund - April 1999
  • NIMSA is introduced - April 1999 [1]
  • Strategic review of OS role undertaken - led by new DG.
  • JUG[2] Consultation papers issued & informal discussions.
  • OS adopts 'linking you to the real world' strapline
  • OS pulls back from major investment in NLIS - not seen as core work
  • The term 'master-map of Britain' is used in the 1998-99 Annual Report
  • OS host OGIS meeting in Southampton [1999]
  • Project Morph (Topo-96) data processing approved & initiated [1999] [3].
  • "New Vision for OS" launched at the AGI event - 1999 [4]
  • Geoffery Robinson resigns - D Willey DG temp.
  • OS hosts European "NMAs & the Internet" Workshop - March 2000
  • Collaboration by the three Ordnance Surveys [OSGB, OSI & OSNI]
  • Digital National Framework consultation event - April 2000

[1] to cover non-commercial activity
[2] Joined Up Geography [to support Joined Up Government]
[3] it would take 12 months of 24 hour processing to complete
[4] included reference to Digital National Framework for the first time.

National & External Developments

  • DVD format is released in the UK [1998]
  • Minimum wage introduced [Arpil 1999]
  • Scotland & Wales National assemblies form
  • Millennium Dome completed
  • Solar Eclipse UK [cloudy in Southampton] [Aug 1999]
  • CROW Act & Right to Roam introduced.
  • Tate Modern opens [2000]
  • Natural England contract awarded to map open access land [1]
  • Sydney Olympics [2000]
  • Wembley Stadium closes - to be rebuilt [2000]
  • Hatfield rail crash - 4 dead [2000]

[1] Binnie, Black & Veatch adopted DNF referencing,

Geospatial Data Strategy [aka the N's Projects] - Structure:

The new Director General realised OS had to reposition itself for the new millennium with a clearer remit. He had been a non-Executive Director for the previous 1-2 years. He was also well connected in the private and public sectors having recently run the IBM Hursley Research Labs and had acted as Technology Advisor to UK Government.

He found the notion of OS venturing into developing 'applications' such as NLIS incompatible with the fact that the data required so much work to make it fit for purpose in the growing world driven now by the internet.

As a short term measure he abolished the business unit structure that had now fostered internal barriers and created cross business working groups. He undertook a modest reorganisation and set about working towards a "New Vision for Ordnance Survey".

As part of this review three fundamental work activities were established:

  • geodata strategy - led by KM
  • internet policy - led by Duncan Shiell
  • pricing & licensing reforms - led by Iain Greenway

During the spring several discussion papers were published within the NGDF group - such as 'Cracks in the Framework' by Roper & Barr.

OS held a number of informal meetings with some of the key players based on a set of 'straw man' position papers: 'JUG-1' and 'JUG-6'. The discussions via NGDF and informal channels and user feedback led to updates in the paper. Eventually a new document was finalised outlining OS role as facilitator in providing the basic data framework while leaving the private sector to pursue commercial developments. This was presented at the September AGI Conference at Olympia ad was well received.

OS also put all Heads ad Senior Managers through an assessment centre in this period. Forty managers went in and only 30 came out.

Geospatial Data Strategy [aka the N's Projects] - Developments:

This section outlines the data strategy work activity.

One of the first activities was to address the N's projects in OS. A business case had been prepared requesting ~40 staff to the take the business and technical work forwards. The current team was around a 30% of this. Several of this team continued their projects while others were found new projects in reorienting OS eg Ian Evans who worked with the Scottish Government of several mutual projects.

A series of intra department meetings were undertaken including specific support for HMLR who had several pressing needs eg arrangements for them to databank maps updates was established.

Slowly the discussions moved on the future and how OS could better support users with am improved data framework. One of the issues of the moment was the role os the British Standard 7666. The local authorities were slowly adopting it but it was piecemeal but many government organisations were not on board eg MAFF family (now Defra), the Royal Commissions, BGS and more. Eventually we decoupled explicit reference to BS 7666 from the OS work [A]
[A] where required, the OS data would still support users adopting the standard.

It was through this process that the concept of the Digital National Framework evolved and was fed into the "New Vision for Ordnance Survey". Of course the data was the Project Morph (Topo 96 spec) that had now been approved for processing. On launch in [date TBC], under a new regime, this was rebranded OS MasterMap.

Personal highlights:

During this period I managed the N's project review working closely with Geoff Robinson and a small team - this led to a repositioning of the OS data strategy and a framework for the emerging Topo-96 data. The year 2000 proved to be a difficult year and I am especially grateful for the support from Glen Hart as well as Steve Erskine during this year. Without Glen's tireless efforts we may have lost the continuity that was just about carried forward to the appointment of the new Director General in Sept. 2000.


  1. Ordnance Survey [commercial site]| Last Accessed: 06 Jan 2019
  2. Cracks in the Framework by C Roper & R Barr | Limited circulation - Pub. 1999
  3. Joined Up Geography Paper-1 | Now withdrawn from OS website - Pub 1999
  4. NIMSA Reports | Last Accessed: 19 April 2019

Last Updated: 19 Apr 2019
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OS HQ Maybush | Geospatial Data Programme

  • This page: The Geospatial Data Programme.
  • Status : Completed [sub pages to be added in a future release]
  • First published: 09 March 2019

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Steve Erskine & Dave Murphy on a wet morning in Boston - database technology visits. 17 Nov 1998

Photo credit: KM

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This article covers the period from early 1997 to late 1998.

The Geospatial Data Programme aim and activities are outlined.

OS and National Context:

A summary of the operating environment for this period:

Ordnance Survey Developments

  • Geospatial Data Strategy [GDS] v3.00 [final] signed off
  • OS collaborates in establishing the National Geospatial Data Framework
  • Geospatial Data Programme [GDP] established to implement the GDS
  • PRISM is rolled out to field offices
  • The digiisation programme is completed
  • Siteplan joins Superplan and Landplan in Agents shops
  • OS adopts BS EN ISO 9001
  • David Rhind returns to academia D Willey DG - temp

National & External Developments

  • Unemployment: 1.8m
  • Change of Government [Tony Blair] - 1997
  • Halifax Building Soc. floats on the Stock Exchange
  • Modernising Government launched
  • First Harry Potter book published
  • Nationalist riots in NI
  • Death of Diana
  • e-Government initiative
  • Scotland & Wales Devolution proposed
  • UK is Chair of EU Council of Ministers [1998]
  • Unemployment 1.3m
  • Shipman murders
  • "Invest to Save" programme opened.
  • Good Friday Agreement signed [1998]

Geospatial Data Programme - Structure:

The main components of the programme were:

  • Geodata store & data delivery
  • Technical Systems - geodata tools and services
  • Geodata production

The programme involved five senior managers some of whom where Senior Technical Consultants - and around 250 staff in all.

Geospatial Data Programme - Developments:

The Geospatial Data Programme was established to

  1. Internal: realise the OS Geospatial Data Strategy and
  2. External: commit the OS's obligations and components into the National Geospatial Data Framework [NGDF]
  3. External: provide continuity and improvements to customers.

Personal highlights:

During this period my role was to manage the Geospatial Data Programme. During this period I took up the UK NMA role on OEEPE, following on from Neil Smith.

Last Updated: 19 Apr 2019
KM v2.00


OS HQ Maybush | Research & Development

  • This page:Research & Development activities.
  • Status : Completed [sub pages to be added in a future release.
  • First published: 09 March 2019

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Gasteig Centre Munich ; International Space Year Symposium - 31 March 1992


Photo credit: KM

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This article covers the period from late summer 1991 to end 93.

Research & Development provided largely applied research to the business.

OS and National Context:

A summary of the operating environment for this period:

Ordnance Survey Developments

  • 100 field offices updating OS maps
  • Portable Interactive Edit Station [PIES] testing [1991]
  • Superplan plots launched & provided by OS Agents
  • OS commits to Open Systems and UNIX operating system
  • PIES renamed PRISM & moves to development
  • OS contributes staff to the CERCO MEGRIN team
  • Target: to complete digitising by 2005 [1992].
  • OS testmap combining land & hydrographic data
  • Land-Line.93 product name
  • Control survey through Channel Tunnel
  • OS prepares to introduce Business Units
  • OSCAR road centreline data coverage completed

National & External Developments

  • Unemployment at 2,400,000 [1991]
  • Maastricht Treaty agreed
  • General Election [J Major]
  • Riots in Manchester, Bristol & Peckham
  • New Manchester tram system opened
  • 3,000th victim of NI Troubles
  • Black Wednesday - UK & ERM
  • MV Brauer oil tanker disaster Shetland is. [85k tonnes oil spilt]
  • Unemployment at 3,000,000 [1993]
  • James Bulger murder
  • Bishopsgate bombing [IRA]
  • Inflations 1.3%
  • First high speed train through Channel Tunnel



Research & Development - structure:



R&D was overseen by a Steering Committee made up of several Directors. This ensured buy-in and value to the business but also made for a cumbersome reporting process. At that time it was also managed by a Head and two managers who were supported by 2-3 project managers. In turn they had teams of 3-4 staff specialisng in specific technologies.

1991 Staff Photo

The staff of Research & Development

The photo was probably taken in the second half of 1991. It includes Ian Logan (Head of R&D), John Farrow and Jack Walters (both R&D Managers)

It does not include everyone working in R&D at that time, nevertheless the room contains some very capable people.


Photo credit: OS Photographer

Research & Development developments:

This section only covers the work in R&D that I was responsible for. There was another 4-5 teams working in project to support small scales mapping, technical support to the business eg unique repayment tasks etc

This team averaged 4-5 staff and included Mick Cory, Colin Wood, Steve Neal, John Walk, Peter Booth, John Williams and Dave Dyer either as team members of project input. These were all talented and very dedicated people.

PIES & PIES Concept Study

When I arrived in late summer 1991 Mick Cory and Colin Wood were starting to wrap up the PIES [Portable Interactive Edit Station] feasibility project. The aim was to test if digital map data could be taken into the field and updated on site. It was looking positive but limited by the computers available. This being the case a concept study was commissioned to investigate the potential taking this work forward. New rugged slimmer computers had just come onto the market at the right time. PIES was renamed PRISM and approved.

Softcopy Photogrammetric Workstations

The development and use of digital stereo imagery using a computer screen [softcopy] was known to be in use in the military [US and probably UK]. This had great attraction over the expensive mechanics of the analytical plotters in use in photogrammetry. This trial using a loaned/hired Helava workstation examined the capabilities in terms of OS use. Unfortunately the system was far from production ready. As a holding activity in terms of digital imagery we recommended using digital mono-plotting in the short term [ie using a single image].

Digital Orthoimagery

The softcopy workstation also enabled the creation of orthoimagery [an aerial photographic mosaic where the view is orthogonal is looking down vertically. No aerial photograph ever achieves this because a) the aircraft is usually tilted and b) the perspective of the camera and the effect of relief, trees, buildings. Therefore a lot of processing is required and this includes knowledge of the ground surface in terms of height positions ie digital terrain models [DTM's]

Height Data

The entire issue of height was growing both in terms of DTMs as well as height on the data objects eg buildings. This study looked at all these issues for the first time and did some exploratory work in combining OS large scale map data and a DTM prepared from the 1:10,000 metric contours. During this time a DG commissioned the relief map of Gt Britain.


OS was by now well advanced in determining a new control network based on satellites [GPS] but all the digital maps were based on the original OSGB1936 datum. Customers were adding their own data using OSGB36 but there were also calls for OS to move fully to the new GPS network. This required work on coordinate transformations and a public seminar was held in London.

Personal highlights:

During this period I was a Project Manager in the team supporting data collection and geodata developments. This involved both team management and we had some expert personal in the team as well as personal project/contributions.

During this period I attended GIS/LIS '93 in Minneapolis - with some interesting findings such as the first GPS/photogrammetry vans. Towards the end of the period I was engaged in one of the teams preparing for the introduction of 'business units' in Ordnance Survey.

Last Updated: 23 Apr 2018
KM v2.01


OS HQ Maybush | Applied Research & Consultancy

  • This page:Applied Research & Consultancy activities.
  • Status : Completed [sub pages to be added in a future release]
  • First published: 08 March 2019

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USGS Data Center at Sioux Falls, SD

Photo credit: KM

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This article covers the period of 1995 - early 97.

Research support for new data management systems and data products.

OS and National Context:

A summary of the operating environment for this period:

Ordnance Survey Developments

  • OS Framework Document published [1995]
  • Spatial Data Strategy V2.00 signed off [1995]
  • OS proposes National Geospatial Data Framework
  • OS Technology Visit to US
  • 'Landmass' remote sensing BNSC project
  • Refurbishment of OS Maybush site
  • OS website established
  • Meridian product released
  • OS hosts a National Geospatial Database event at Central Hall, Westminster
  • Spatial Data Strategy V2.00 signed off [1996]
  • Landplan product released
  • 1:10K height product released [PROFILE]

National & External Developments

  • Barings Bank collapse [1995]
  • Unemployment 2.3m [1995]
  • Private rail companies start operating
  • Ongoing was in former Yugoslavia
  • Docklands Bombing - IRA
  • Unemployment: 2.0m [1996]
  • Dunblane Massacre - 16 children murdered
  • Channel Tunnel fire
  • BSE crisis [Mad Cow Disease]
  • Local Govt Act: new unitary authorities
  • Euro '96 in England
  • IRA bomb in Manchester [1996]
  • Nelson Mandela visit UK
  • 160 car accident on M40 - 3 dead [ 1997]

Applied Research & Consultancy [ARC&C] Structure:

The were two teams in AR&C each headed by a Project Manager. The project Managers were Glen Hart and Martin Buckley.

Applied Research & Consultancy Developments:

Database Technologies

The new data strategy proposed an holistic solution to reform the current myriad of datasets and databases. However the support for spatial data was extermely limited at this time for anything other than point data. This work explored options and existing technologies.


Work continued towards completing a set of transformations to enable users, suppliers and OS to move between OSGB36 datum and the SN80 and later datums. A publuic event was held at the RICS in London towards a conclusion to the debate.


OS won ~£100k funding from BNSC to explore the implications of higher resolution satellite imagery with regards to large scale map data. UCL and Univ. Southampton joint researchers.

National Land Information Service (& supporting N's projects)

Work starts on components required to support the NLIS pilot in Bristol ie proving the creation and maintenance of Local {and National] Land & Property/Street Gazetteers.


Influenced by the USGS GIS laboratory developed to analyse the Mississippi floods - OS opens a more modest facility to demonstrate the power of geodata in terms of users applications. It proves to be very popular.

Technology Tracking

.A regular 3-4 side A4 bulletin is started highlighting new technologies and developments relevant to geodata.

There were also many other projects such as Digital Fingerprinting and support supplied the business when required.

Personal highlights:

During this period my role was senior manager in Applied Research & Consultancy.

Last Updated: 19 Apr 2019
KM v2.00

OS Technical Systems

OS HQ Maybush | Technical Systems

  • This page: Technical Systems activities.
  • Status : Completed [sub pages to be added in a future release]
  • First published: 08 March 2019

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Clinton Executive Order - US NSDI, April 1994

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This article covers the year 1994.

Technical Systems [TS] was one of three units responsible for managing geodata related IT developments. .

OS and National Context:

A summary of the operating environment for this period:

Ordnance Survey Developments

  • OS introduces email for management
  • Business Units introduced April 1994
  • ADDRESS-POINT product released.
  • v1.00 Spatial Data Strategy signed off
  • PRISM contract awarded

National & External Developments

  • Gloucester murders [F&R west]
  • Channel Tunnel Officially opened
  • CPres. W Clinton signs Executive Order rel. to NSDI in the US
  • Death of John Smith [Labour leader]
  • Prov IRA declares ceasefire
  • Cash for questions scandal
  • Daily Telegraph 1st online news solution

Technical Systems - Structure:

The were two teams in Technical Systems, each headed by a Project Manager [John Turner and Martin Buckley]

They had 2-3 teams of 2-3 staff -specialising in specific developments. In some cases eg PRISM this included contract award and liaison.

technical Systems was one of five[A] units within the new Information Management Business Unit which introduced the the concept of a developers pool - ie all development staff could work across the 5 development units.

[A]: Business Systems, IT Services, Data Storage & Supply, Data Management and Technical Systems - there was also a small support office. Several managers are provided with a 'Learning-Tree Annual Passport' to get up to speed with the latest technologies

Technical Systems - Developments:

In 1994 the primary projects of Technical Systems were:

Superplan/Agents Plotting System

Updates, enhancements and releases of the recently launched Unix based plot production service installed in OS Agents shops around Gt Britain. Managed by Martin Buckley & supported by Kevin Lee and others.>

PRISM Development

A pen based pad enabling update data directly in the field and range of other options. The unit development was awarded to Conic Systems based in Edinburgh. backend systems to download and upload updates was also required. Managed by John Turner and supported by Colin Wood and Eddie Curtis.>

Translators and other tools

This included a suite of data processing tools eg for reformatting or restructuring data. This included the x to y[TBC] translator, PSP, & DMP. Managed by John Turner and supported by Rob ? and others.>


A new product requirement to create a derived national map at 1:10,000 scale. Managed by Martin Buckley and later Rachel Brown>

There were other staff unnamed here - the unit had some very dedicated and able people. I think that Ian Painter first appeared here and was assigned to one of these teams.

Personal highlights:

During this period my role was senior manager in Technical Systems. This was a challenging unit with so much leading edge work moving forward.

Last Updated: 18 Apr 2019
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