Cloudisle – a series of baseline 3D maps of Malta that will serve as the base for research in cross-thematic fields – were recently launched by the University of Malta and the Planning Authority. The two entities have successfully brought government entities together to create integrated spatial information systems through a 2007-2014 ERDF project called SIntegraM.

The 3D map tools cover the whole of the Maltese islands and up to one nautical mile offshore. Users of the tools can fly around the data and view their zone of interest in new ways, including newly-published marine zones, such as underwater artefacts. For example, they can see sea-level rises and ancient coasts around the Maltese islands. The tools can also be used to measure and calculate heights, distances and areas.

University rector Alfred Vella said the specialised and multi-disciplined approach used by the new tool will allow scientists and practitioners to interact and lead to knowledge-based policymaking. Prof. Vella said the tool could be useful for environmental scientists, transport, NGOs, forensic experts, virtual tourism, virtual museums, civil protection preparation and post-disaster management as well as leisure and recreation, diving enthusiasts, gaming enthusiasts and other beneficiaries. Planning Authority executive chairman Johann Buttigieg said the tools will have an impact on spatial planning. He added that the collaboration between academia and the operational arms of spatial planning have resulted in new online spatial services that have been included in the recently upgraded Planning Autho­rity mapserver. The Cloudisle data layers will also be made available through the mapserver.

Prof. Saviour Formosa from the University’s Faculty for Social Wellbeing gave details of work he conducted for two years to convert data and set up a baseline map on which new information emanating from spatial projects could be integrated in a 3D environment.

The laser data was integrated with aerial imagery to produce a realistic depiction of the Maltese islands. The results depict interactive landscapes and seascapes in realistic point-cloud 3D.

The project also resulted in some new discoveries, such as the Ghariebel doline, an offshore land feature off the northeast coast of Malta discovered by Prof. Formosa on May 1, 2014.

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