XCAM G used in river survey to map planning issues and ecology

XCAM G used in river survey to map planning issues and ecology

We’ve all seen how mapping cars can photograph every aspect of the street scene. But what about waterways?

Mobile mapping from roads has been beneficial to business and consumers alike ranging from detailed asset management to simply seeing whether a street has a pub on it. We got involved in a project with a UK Council’s planning department to see if we can help them carry out some mapping with an aquatic twist!

The Aim

Our aim for the day was to capture 360 panoramic geotagged imagery of the riverbanks, bridges and locks. The planning department would then be able to use the imagery to get a current snapshot of the waterway, allowing detailed analysis on everything from the structural state of the banks and bridges, riverbank safety, the ecology and wildlife in the area as well as considering how tourists who visit the area by river perceive the parts of the city. 


The Technology

For this survey we took an XCAM G1 mobile mapping system that was fitted to a survey vehicle. We took the system and the frame out of the car ready for it to meet its new mode of transport for the day; a rather glamorous 66 foot Sunseeker Sport Yacht…. or at least that what we were told. In reality it was a much more modest affair; a blue and yellow workboat called the ‘Vale of Pewsey’ owned by the Canal & River Trust. Two extremely helpful Canal & River Trust volunteers were on hand to pilot the vessel for the day.

The XCAM G1 was fitted to the front of the boat with the camera frame attached to the platform at the very front. Power was routed from a marine battery at the back. It wasn’t a pretty installation but it worked well for the day. One component that we left out was the wheel encoder as that wouldn’t be much use on the water so we disabled that function in the software.

Including a safety briefing, a few interviews and an outline of the survey plan for the day with the crew, we were up-and-running within an hour. We were pretty happy with that considering it was the first time for an XCAM G1 on a boat, and a previously unseen one at that.

The system was set to capture at a 5m spacing. We also reduced the initialisation speed as the acceleration that normally calibrates the GPS and IMU would be a lot less than in a Vauxhall Corsa.

After 30 seconds on the move the system initialised and began to capture imagery.


The Survey

Our test site was a stretch of river from the centre of Bath over to Salford, a stretch of 9 kilometres (5.6 miles). We set off from a pontoon right in the centre of Bath so before heading West, we made our way upstream to the iconic Pulteney Bridge, the location of a stunning horseshoe weir. After the quick spot of tourism, we made our way down the river.

During the survey there wasn’t much to do. The system just fired every 5 metres and we enjoyed the scenery. We did have to navigate a number of locks so that gave us a job once in a while.


We were impressed by the number of satellites and signal quality that we got on the route. We had assumed that with dense tree canopies and being so set down against the ground level we would get a poor signal, but it all behaved well.


The Results

The data was processed and put onto the hosting site in less than 48 hours and was ready to be viewed by the planning team. It’s already lived up to their expectations and are finding more and more uses for it everyday. One of the key ones is simply showing photography of a particular issue to desk-based staff without needing to leave the office or hire another boat. Their hope is that this information will aid them to make better planning decisions as they redevelop and improve the riverside.

The data is available in a web-based viewer through their XMAP Cloud GIS platform. It can also be embedded (like below). The 3D measurement tools we hope will allow greater analysis of the scene over and above just viewing the imagery.

The team are now considering expanding the survey further afield as there’s a huge amount of change happening on their rivers and canals. We look forward to getting our XCAM G system out on the water again!


We’d like to thank the Canal & River Trust for supplying the boat for the day and the fantastic volunteers that joined us. We’d also like to thank Bath & North East Somerset Council for commissioning the pilot study.

If you’re interested in commissioning a river or canal survey then please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the GeoXphere team. We can do the survey ‘as a service’ or we can train you up on the use of the XCAM G so you’re self-sufficient. We can deploy to anywhere in the world (with enough advanced warning!).