Using drones for high-resolution forest inventory

Bitcomp has participated several R&D projects in recent years aiming to develop methods for producing fine resolution forest data based on UAV surveys. In Maaseutu 2.0 project (ended in February 2018), we piloted use of UAVs for detecting storm damages, producing up-to-date forest data and monitoring vegetation changes in agricultural land. In summer and autumn 2017 we analyzed several forest areas in Central Finland and Northern Savonia with UAVs. The goal of these pilots was to produce same forest variables based on UAV data, as gathered traditionally in field inventory. In addition, we conducted larger pilot in Nordrhein-Westphalen region in Germany. In this pilot the goal was to utilize UAV data as part of multisource forest inventory in combination with satellite data.

The results have been encouraging. UAV data allows producing of high-resolution orthomosaic, good canopy height model (CHM) and 3D point cloud in terms of resolution and quality. Based on these data it is possible to detect single trees, derive the traditional tree characteristics (species, height, diameter, basal area, volume) as well as generalize the tree estimates to forest stand level.

Piloting continues in new projects

However, lot of things can still be improved in UAV surveys and data processing chain. We will continue development of methodology and piloting of UAV surveying in new projects, for example the LaatuKuva (QualityImage) project funded by EU-EAKR and coordinated by Finnish Forest Centre (starting in March 2018), where the focus is in utilizing UAVs for quality control of forest treatments and monitoring of effects of forest management to water areas. LaatuKuva project and its findings will be reported later more detailed in our blog.

Sanna Härkönen, R&D Manager, Bitcomp Oy