Colour image showing the outline of a barn in shades of blue and green. Structural elements are visible in a darker blue
Section through Harmondsworth Barn showing the intensity of the return pulse from laser scanning © Historic England
Section through Harmondsworth Barn showing the intensity of the return pulse from laser scanning © Historic England

Specialist Survey Techniques

Specialist survey techniques, such as photogrammetry and laser scanning, are a fundamental component of any heritage project.

Often referred to as metric or measured survey, these techniques provide visual and metrically accurate base data for a variety of heritage applications  including conservation planning, condition surveys, decay monitoring, recording, architectural analysis, archaeological investigation and site presentation.

3D laser scanning

Laser scanning provides a fast, automatic method of recording historic places using laser light for measuring in three dimensions. This measuring technique can be used for heritage projects such as:

  • recording sites or structures
  • examination of features to reveal small details
  • structural or condition monitoring
  • analysing the development of a site or structure and its significance
  • site interpretation and models

There are three scanning systems: triangulation, pulse and phase.

Our guidance provides detailed advice about using laser scanning in heritage projects.

Image gallery

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

Structure-from-motion (SfM)

Recent developments in multi-image photogrammetry and machine vision have led to increased use of structure-from-motion (SfM) across aerial, terrestrial and close-range applications. SfM allows three-dimensional structures to be derived from two-dimensional image sequences. An application of this technique has included examining SfM photogrammetry of artefacts from Rievaulx Abbey as a means of recording for the English Heritage Curatorial Team at Helmsley Archaeological Store.

You can download some of these recent examples of applying SfM and laser scanning as Research Reports:

Historic England has produced new technical guidance about the archaeological application of photogrammetry with particular reference to SfM techniques. This new publication raises awareness of the issues that are commonly encountered and the many potential uses for photogrammetry across a wide variety of scales, ranging from landscapes to small objects.

Multi-light imaging

Reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) is an innovative multi-light imaging technique that uses a pre-fabricated dome to produce an interactive output for revealing subtle surface relief.

Learn more

View the 2020 webinar: Geospatial survey

Geospatial survey encompasses a wide range of survey technologies for capturing three dimensional data and digital imagery of heritage objects, buildings and landscapes. Once processed the outputs provide accurate, scalable base documentation that aids a variety of applications including archaeological/architectural analysis, site presentation, condition survey, structural monitoring and conservation works planning.

This webinar discusses the heritage application of geospatial survey technologies and through reference to two case studies, considers their use for historic buildings and structures alongside some of the challenges faced when undertaking or commissioning such survey work.

View the 2021 webinars on remote inspection:

For the best webinar experience, please use Google Chrome browser or download Adobe Connect.

Read more about using drones for inspection and survey  in volume 168 of Context, the Journal of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, published by Cathedral Communications Ltd in May 2021.