How Connect Plus and Osborne digitally mapped the UK’s busiest motorway, avoiding road closures and disruption to the public

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2021 finalist for ‘Digital Construction Excellence’ in the CN Awards.

2021 finalist for ‘Digital Initiative of the Year’ in the BCIAs

2021 finalist for ‘Transport Infrastructure Champion’ in the TechFest Awards

Connect Plus, the company awarded the contract to operate and manage the M25 and its key arterial routes on behalf of Highways England, worked with partners Connect Plus Services (CPS), Osborne and Sensat to digitally map the road network. From this, a single source of data has been built which all M25 suppliers can access within one visualisation platform, creating a ‘digital 3D M25’.

Hailed as the largest drone mapping endeavour in the UK, the project
covers 120 miles of highway, consists of over 23 billion data points and 85,000
high-resolution images, captured and delivered in 30 days.

The project

To support Connect Plus in the creation of an accurate digital 3D
representation of the M25 that will enable intelligent infrastructure, Sensat,
working alongside partner Osborne, completed a photogrammetric survey of
the entire M25 network, including all adjoining trunk and slip roads, using drone

While the team can see the physical asset in a digital format today to make
more informed project decisions, using AI to show when the asset needs an
intervention, without the traditional regime of inspections, is on the horizon. It
will transform planning, delivery and maintenance of the infrastructure,
bringing tangible benefits to the economy and to the lives of people travelling,
working and living around the M25 transport corridors. Sensat’s visualisation
platform sets Connect Plus and partners up for this future.

The largest drone mapping endeavour in the UK

120 miles of highway, consists of over 23 billion data points and 85,000 high-resolution images, captured and delivered in 30 days.

The solution

Fixed-wing drones were used to remotely capture topographic data safely and efficiently, producing highly-accurate, geo-referenced 2D and 3D outputs. With permission from the Civil Aviation Authority to fly drones within built-up areas, combined with EVLOS (extended visual line of sight) exemption, Sensat were able to eliminate the need for traffic management and lane closures across the M25.

Aggregated in Sensat’s visualisation platform, the processed 3D point cloud and 2D orthomosaic data will be used to create the first digital twin of the M25. Today, a virtual 3D model has been shared with Connect Plus, Connect Plus Services and its framework contractors, acting as a key source of information of the entire motorway. Visualising data in this way will support the team in planning and decision-making processes across renewal and maintenance projects in 2020/21 and beyond.

Bespoke data capture service

To support the project, Sensat’s in-house team worked with Osborne, Connect Plus and CPS to collect topographic data in accordance with social distancing during lockdown.

Utilising drones, the team safely captured and delivered the required data in just 30 days. Sensat’s drone solution meant the data could be collected quickly, effectively, and without the need for road closures.

“We are thrilled that we’re now in a position to create the first digital 3D model of the M25, giving us a new and innovative way to deliver safer, more reliable journeys for our customers whilst limiting disruption and reducing our road workers’ exposure to live traffic.”

Andy Dean,
Chief Executive of Connect Plus


The M25 team have now received accurate high-resolution 2D and 3D data of
the M25 to put to immediate use. By capturing the information once and sharing it across teams, the projected benefits in terms of planned schemes in 2020/21 are:

  • 26 fewer shifts for surveys which reduces cost, saves time and keeps people
    safely off the network
  • No disruption through lane closures or narrow lane running
  • Carbon emissions are reduced by 95% on traditional surveys
  • Remote measurements/progress reporting using Sensat’s visualisation platform, and ‘live’ data saving time

The survey is the first important step on the M25 digital twin roadmap. When linked with emerging technologies for predictive maintenance of assets it has the potential to create a step-change in whole-life asset management.

Want to learn more about how you can remotely capture topographic data safely and efficiently?

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