It’s true what they say, a team is only as good as the sum of people in it. At Aura, we are committed to delivering a truly excellent service that is beyond our client’s expectations which is why we’re delighted to announce that Aga has joined the Aura team.
Aura, Education, and the National Museum of Scotland.
In 2015, Directors of Aura, Michael and Steven founded "The Empowered Project".
The project was established to inspire change in the way Renewable Energy Sources are used and perceived by educating children – and the wider community - of the importance of sustainability in our future.
The Empowered project led to Aura working closely with the National Museum of Scotland and their "Get Energised!" programme which is sponsored by Scottish Power.
In this video now shown in classrooms across the country, Michael speaks about his career in the energy sector.
Michael and Steven also feature in the "Talking Points" video, designed to encourage school pupils to consider what renewable technologies mean to them.
We believe that change in the way we use our resources starts with our children. Let them be Empowered.
As land boundary mapping specialists, we’re often asked how our services tie with the Registers of Scotland (RoS) procedures and requirements.
In Scotland, solicitors and estate agents are responsible for the submission of suitable plans to the Register of Scotland.
But what makes a plan "suitable"?
As a professional mapping firm, Aura are regularly asked whether we can produce title deed plans that clearly represent the described legal extent of a deed in its relative location to ensure that the plan is "suitable" for registration.
In this article, we address some questions that have arisen, linking them directly with common issues encountered during first registration of plans through the Land Registration etc (Scotland) Act 2012.
Defined Boundaries: imaginary or invisible lines.
Q: Defined boundaries alluded to in historical plans can sometimes be imaginary or invisible lines that were agreed at some time between concerned parties. These do not follow features or boundary lines and are not shown on Ordnance Survey mapping. How can you map these boundaries if you cannot see where they physically lie?
A: Provided there is at least some reference to the position of defined boundary lines in historic title deeds or that they are shown on the title plan (even if it is not precise), we will use our software to investigate positioning with reasonable confidence, marking our understanding of where they should lie clearly on a professional plan. Invariably with older titles, determination of boundaries involves close examination and plotting of natural features such as burns, marshes or hills that may have been in common opinion, boundaries. Where uncertainties still exist, evidence of possession is the next point-of-call for us. We will map artificial features - such as boundary stones or fences - to ensure that all possibilities are captured in order for a conclusion to be drawn.
Physical boundaries that do not coincide with the Legally Defined Extent.
Q: Physical boundaries that denote the “occupied” extent are not always coincident with described boundaries. In many cases, boundary structures can suffer movement: for example, if a hedge is left untended it might take root where it touches the ground and become very wide, making its original line hard to discern. So even if it is clear that the boundary once ran along the hedge, identifying this boundary on the ground may become very difficult. How can Aura discern the position of these boundaries?
A: We use the latest in measurement technology. So, when we measure a boundary - be it a hedge, wall or fence – we will plot the outer, inner, and centre of the feature on our maps. This means that in the office we can investigate and plot all possibilities to determine the most likely legal position of the boundary in question. So if the extent of a property is "bounded by" or "enclosed with" the a described feature, we'll be sure to depict the legal position accurately.
Our mapping and investigation services also mean that we can quickly identify if, and how far, the boundary has moved - this methodology being used to resolve numerous disputes or to submit an accurate plan to the Registers of Scotland.
In the case of dispute, professional survey involvement might be the effective means to identify boundary locations from existing legal documentation. When a wall or fence is to be constructed on, or even nearby, the boundary line, the consent of both proprietors is necessary to prevent the structure being considered an encroachment. Aura can physically mark out the true position of legal boundaries on the ground, enabling a physical boundary to be re-positioned or constructed in the right place when a dispute is resolved.
Registration of plans on Ordnance Survey maps.
Q: We often find that the boundaries shown on Ordnance Survey maps differ to those shown in historical plans meaning that first registration can be rejected due to overlap, discrepancies, or inaccuracies. How does Aura deal with inaccuracies in Ordnance Survey data that cause issues during registration?
A: In our experience, features shown on Ordnance Survey maps are rarely depicted accurately. This is a concern as many plans are currently being submitted with errors in what they show, leading to rejections or potential issues in the future. If there is a discrepancy, the first step should be an on-site comparison between occupational boundaries described on the Ordnance Map and those that actually exist on site.
When we map the physical boundaries around a property (usually the occupied extent) to millimetre accuracy, we often find that the extent depicted by Ordnance Survey data is a long way from matching what actually exists on the ground. Our aim is to then produce a plan that enables rectification of Ordnance Survey data for unobstructed registration of the plan.
In cases where Plans Reports have been requested or issued, we can quickly and efficiently address reported discrepancies or inaccuracies. We then work directly with solicitors – coming to the firms office - to lead the way to a solution. In cases, we have enabled halted sales to be concluded within days: proceeding without professional survey involvement could have led to weeks or even months of delay.
Positioning of legal boundaries when historical plans are unclear.
Q: Can you determine the position of legal boundaries if historical plans are insufficiently clear?
A: Once we have been appointed, we conduct a measured survey of all existing physical boundaries denoting "occupied extent" and all areas indicated to be the legal extent. Our state of the art mapping equipment that enables us to determine the Global Position of any point along a boundary. We will then digitally re-create historic legal title plans and overlay them upon our accurate map. This enables us to assess the accuracy of existing plans, the position of existing features, and the exact position of the legal boundaries that have not been marked by a fence, wall, or hedge. If discrepancies between the occupied extent and the legal extent exist, our report will describe where these have stemmed from so that solicitors and legal parties can proceed with confidence.
Plan Production for Boundary Agreements.
Q: Most of the plans we submit show the general position of boundaries according to the Ordnance Survey. On occasions where an owner might require something more precise, perhaps in the case of dispute, can your plans be used for a boundary agreement application?
A: Yes. We take accuracy very seriously and the equipment we use means that we can report the global coordinate of every point around a boundary so that there is no ambiguity surrounding its position. Our plans clearly show the agreed legal extent of a property and include the precise coordinates of all boundaries.
In sum, land boundary matters can be challenging for all parties involved. Because we treat boundary matters as an on-site investigation, drawing information from all resources available and bringing them together, we can reach informed conclusions quickly. We act on appointment of solicitors as support to resolving difficult boundary matters. Our findings are always presented as a concise report to enable sales to conclude or boundary matters to be resolved as effectively as possible.
Don't fight over a fence.
Assisting in the resolution of land ownership dispute accounts for a significant portion of the work that comes to our business. Interestingly, we often find that when we are appointed, the parties involved have been peaceful neighbours for many years. Further, and more often than not, our site visit informs that none of the disputed boundaries have been physically changed: a fence has not been moved by a sneaky neighbour hoping to increase the size of their garden when next door is on holiday; the retiree next door hasn't built an eleven story shed to fill his days, with half falling within the neighbour’s garden.
How can long-term, mutual contentedness for the position of a boundary turn into a vicious argument between neighbours when nothing has even changed? Well, the dispute often coincides with the sale of one of the properties either side of the boundary. The fly in the ointment of years of neighbourly peace: The Land Registration etc (Scotland) Act 2012.
The Land Registration etc (Scotland) Act 2012 was introduced to "reform and restate the law on the registration of rights to land" while establishing a complete "map-based public register of land and property ownership" in Scotland. While we fully support the intent of the register, we know that a project of this scale is rarely executed without some snags...
The re-registration of a Title under the new act requires all existing boundaries to be outlined on the Ordnance Survey Map. This is where problems begin to arise. You see, the Ordnance Survey map only exists as a representation of what can actually be found on the ground. In our experience, it is rarely truly accurate.
The second issue arises when the historical title plan for a property is compared with the Ordnance Survey map. Often, historical title plans exist as incomprehensible floating shapes that are difficult to correlate with the property in question. Adding to this is a likely inaccuracy of the measurements displayed on the plan, attributed to historical measurement techniques. Therefore, many of the age-old plans that we see also do not accurately reflect the actual occupied extent of boundaries that have existed for years. Until now, this has never been considered a problem.
So, when two documents that are prone to error are compared, discrepancies are likely to occur. This is often when the Keeper of the Deeds sends a report (known as a Plans Report) to the solicitor involved in a sale. The issued Plans Report highlights where discrepancies have arisen. However, we stress that it is quite common for no report to be issued by the Keeper. Do be aware that this does not guarantee that the Ordnance Survey submitted plan has been deemed accurate it's just that part of the Land Registration etc (Scotland) Act 2012 places responsibility on the solicitor for ensuring the accuracy of each plan submitted. Therefore, should it be discovered further down the line that the plan isn't accurate, this could lead to a legal nightmare for the parties involved, with the Soliciting firm that originally submitted the plan being the first to be blamed.
Now back to our story of a war between formerly peaceful neighbours. In our experience, when discrepancies arise, they often create the illusion that one or more of the boundaries surrounding a property is in the wrong place - usually making it seem that the legal extent of one piece of land is actually larger than what is shown on the ground. The party who owns this property is typically quick to think that they've won the land ownership jackpot and can become convinced that they can "claim back" the land they feel they are legally entitled to. Bitterness ensues. Aura is called.
Using the latest in survey technology, our experienced team accurately model the position of the boundaries as they exist. Our investigation then involves the digital recreation of the historical Title Plan. Both of these are then overlaid on the Ordnance Survey map, meaning that we can effectively demonstrate where discrepancies have been born from. This investigation has led to the rapid resolution of countless disputes or Plans Report challenges.
As professionals in our field, we highly recommend that a survey of the boundaries of any property is conducted. This means that the chance of ownership ambiguity causing issues in the future is eliminated. Moreover, we can conduct a survey at any time so there is no need to wait for things to get nasty between neighbours. For peace of mind now, or during the purchase of a new home or piece of land, Aura can mitigate the potential for expensive and unnecessary disputes. If there is already an on-going legal battle or there is already trouble with registering a Title Plan in the new system, we can help to resolve that too!
Aura recently had the honour of delivering a presentation to Team Leaders and Directors of Scotland’s leading contractor, Morrison Construction to mark the handover of our Aerial Survey of the West Calder High School site.
Our presentation summarised how we delivered the project from survey perparation (including communication with local residents) to building the model from data captured by our DJI S1000+ UAV Octocopter.
As our DJI S1000 - armed with its 4k Panasonic GH4 - autonomously took to the skies to survey the 52,000 sqm site in West Calder, we talked representatives of Morrison Construction, West Lothian Council, and Archial Norr Architects through the process of Aerial Survey:
“We combine data captured by the UAV with GPS data collected using Trimble GNSS Survey equipment to effectively complete a topographical survey entirely from the air. The process reduces a survey that would ordinarlily weeks of site time to one that can be completed in less than a day. Few companies are currently able to combine in-house aerial imagery with topographical GPS data which means that Aura is currently at the forefront of the aerial survey revolution.”
Our words weren’t uttered just to impress either; aerial survey is fast becoming the most effective means to survey large or complex sites. The technology really does mean that a few weeks onsite can be reduced to a single day. This is without considering the fact that substantially more data points (millions) will be collected in a few short minutes - more individual data points than many months of Total Station survey could amass!
The efficiency of the technology was demonstrated on the morning of the survey; we spent just over two hours on site, with most of the time being spent waiting on weather and fending off midges. When the skies parted to give us a brief glimpse of the sun, we programmed a flight path over the survey area and, once in flight, the Octocopter snapped a total of 573 ultra-high resolution images before returning back to the point from which it took off!
Back in the office we gathered the aerial imagery and combined it with GPS control points collected at ground level using our Trimble R8 Rover. Some careful inputting and data processing meant that we had generated a complete 3D model of the site within a few days. Final data point count: over 200million!
The model has since been submitted to world-class architectural practice Archial Norr who are working with Autodesk 3DS Max to turn it into stunning visuals for the West Calder High School construction project. We will be sure to add these to the next blog in the series.
A case study of the project to date can be downloaded by clicking here.
We can save our clients time and money by producing highly detailed, accurate land and building models from the air.
Rising early on a Sunday morning is never fun. However, this Sunday it wasn’t a problem for us - even after being at a wedding until the wee hours of Saturday evening. This was because Sunday saw us complete a benchmark UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) survey.
Leaving Edinburgh as the sun rose, we met with our partner, all round cool guy, and Drone Pilot (Ro Ramtohul of Urban Air Media) with his high spec DJI S1000+ Octocoptor at Inverkeithing Quarry. If you haven’t been, Inverkeithing Quarry is a beautiful site perched on the shores of the Forth, overlooking the iconic Forth Rail Bridge. With it’s blue watered lagoon, high faces, and amazing location it’s a spot that we’d recommend checking out. Our mission for the morning: to create a complete 3D model of the quarry.
After programming a flight path and conducting a test flight we hit “go” and let technology do it’s thing. In minutes the Octocopter - complete with a high resolution Panasonic GH4 4k camera – had taken 93 images of the site and had landed back where it had set off. Despite the wind (and it really was gusty), the incredible DJI S1000+ did its thing wonderfully. The images that it took were unbelievably sharp and each had been georeferenced to its exact position.
Back in the office we set about downloading the imagery and importing all the data collected to our software. Using clever overlapping and photogrammetry, the software enabled us to produce a complete 3D rendered model of the entire site in a few hours. The model is cloud point based and fully interactive – each pixel in the 93 images becoming a measurable data point with x, y, z coordinates.
Due to the size, layout, and complexity of the site, traditional survey methods would have made producing a model to even half of the detail of the aerial survey incredibly difficult, not to mention, time consuming. This is why we chose it. Within hours we had created a model that would have taken us weeks to create with other land survey methods (GPS, Total Stations with Refectorless point shooting, photogrammetry). Sure, the model required some tidying and a little manipulation but it was all there to be explored! Updates to follow!
With this technology we are excited to be able to save our clients time and money by producing highly detailed, accurate surveys. UAV technology lends itself to large or complex sites (housing developments, renewable sites, quarry modelling and costal erosion monitoring etc) which can be modelled to high levels of detail in a relatively short space of time. If you’d like to learn more about our UAV aerial survey services then please get in touch!