How drones are branching out with forestry

Mar 14, 2017 3:14:17 PM

drones forestry

Using a new technology such as UAVs – also known as drones – in the forestry sector was inevitable. Since Canada has forest coverage of up to 40 per cent of its land mass, any new method to make the task of managing this sustainable resource easier is welcomed with open arms.

For the forestry sector, using UAVs has made complex tasks faster, less expensive and more accurate. These tasks include, but are not limited to:  

SpectreUAV_FallForest-379336-edited.png     - Inventory assessment

     - Volume estimation

     - Logging surveillance

     - Damage evaluation

     - Forest fire hotspot detection

     - Forest health monitoring

     - Tree counting

     - Tree height detection

Although the temptation is to use prosumer UAVs in forestry, it has been found that professional UAVs and companies that specialize in data collection are far more capable, and flexible, to meet the specific needs of the forest sector. The improvements in the quality of the data collection, area coverage, and speed are enough to convince interested observers that the professional service providers are worth the investment. 

Read also: The sky's the limit: Construction and the future of drone tech

A professional UAV service provider should be always be in full compliance with the evolving Transport Canada regulations, carry a comprehensive aviation and liability insurance plan (Spectre UAV Inc. carries $2 million in coverage), have dedicated data processing software/hardware, and be open to discussing their equipment, experiences, and limitations.

Spectre UAV Inc. uses professional-grade UAV platforms exclusively, such as the Sensefly eBee fixed-wing. The eBee was chosen because it provides features such as: 


     - Flexibility in changing the specialized payloads

     - Extended flight time (versus multi-rotor UAVs)

     - Real time kinematic (RTK) integration, making sub-cm geo-referencing possible

     - Transport Canada compliant UAV


Of the many advantages to using UAVs, one specific ability is operating in areas at low altitudes that were previously considered difficult or not economically feasible to access by helicopter or airplane.

As part of their data collection service offerings, Spectre UAV Inc. uses a variety of sensors, whether it be a dedicated photogrammetry camera (capable of providing 1.5 cm/pixel), a thermal imager, or a multispectral sensor (NIR, Red-Edge, Red, and Green bands), to provide detailed data reports and models, which can be used by the forester to plan accordingly.

One tip to keep in mind is that to collect proper data, the UAV user should be mindful of the angle of the sun, as this will have a direct impact on any readings. Using sensors that have sunshine irradiance built-in, such as the Parrot Sequoia that Spectre UAV Inc. uses, will also improve the quality of the multispectral readings of the forest, which will help detect tree stress. The effect of the season (summer or fall) should also be accounted for, as this will impact the tree canopy, and subsequently, the data collected.

Most UAV data can be far more useful than that obtained by alternate means, such as satellite. Satellite data has far lower resolution, is subject to obscuration by cloud cover, and can be outdated (months, or even years in some areas), making UAV data collection a far more appealing choice for the forestry sector.

Spectre UAV Inc. specializes in industrial UAV services, with focus on agriculture, environmental, forestry, and is constantly researching and testing new data collection methods. | ph: 844-210-2950

Photos courtesy Spectre UAV Inc.

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