Aerial and ground technological integration leads to improved forest inventory and management

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By integrating aerial and ground-based mobile mapping sensors and systems, Purdue’s team of digital forestry researchers uses state-of-the-art technology to locate, count and measure over a thousand trees in a matter of hours.

“Machines count and measure every tree – it’s not modeling, it’s a real forest inventory,” said Songlin Faye, dean’s chair of remote sensing and professor of forestry and natural resources and leader of the digital forest initiative. farm of Purdue University. “This is a revolutionary development on our path to using technology to quickly and accurately describe the global forest ecosystem, which will improve our ability to prevent forest fires, detect diseases, perform accurate carbon counts and make informed management decisions. forests.

The technology uses manned aircraft, drones and backpack-mounted systems. The systems integrate cameras with light and range detection devices, or LiDAR, together with navigation sensors, including integrated global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) and inertial navigation systems (INS). A Purdue team led by Ayman Habib, Thomas A. Page, a professor of construction and head of Purdue’s Digital Photogrammetry Research Group, who co-led the project with Fei, designed and built the systems.

“Different parts of the systems take advantage of the synergistic characteristics of the acquired data to determine which component has the most accurate information for a given data point,” Habib said. “This is how we can integrate information on a small and large scale. A platform alone cannot do that. We had to find a way for multiple platforms and sensors – providing different types of information – to work together. This gives the full picture at extremely high resolution. Fine details are not lost. “

A machine learning algorithm developed by the data analysis team is as important as the personalized autonomous vehicles they create. The results of a study using their technology are described in detail in an article published in the journal Remote monitoring.

“This system collects a variety of information for each tree, including height, trunk diameter and branch information,” Habib said. “In addition to this information, we maintain accurate location and time markers for acquired features.”

The result is like giving a person the glasses he or she needs. What was once obscure and uncertain is becoming clear. Their vision improves, and so does their understanding of what they see.

LiDAR works like radar, but uses laser light as a signal. LiDAR sensors estimate the range between the scanning system and objects, using the time required for the signal to travel to objects and back to the sensor. On drones, airplanes or satellites, measurements are taken from above the canopy of trees, and on moving vehicles or backpacks, measurements are made from below the canopy. Air systems have continuous access to the GNSS signal to accurately determine the location and orientation of the sensor after GNSS / INS integration and provide a reasonable resolution. Ground-based systems, on the other hand, provide more detail and finer resolution, while suffering from potential GNSS signal interruptions, Habib said.

“This multi-platform system and processing framework takes the best of each to provide both fine detail and high positioning accuracy,” he said.

For example, if the backpack is in an area with poor access to the GNSS signal, a drone can come in and put that data in the right place, he said.

“This is a breakthrough in the application of new geomatic tools to forestry,” Faye said. “This solves a real and urgent challenge in areas such as agriculture and transport, but it is also an amazing engineering and science that will be applied outside of one arena.”

Simulation of forest inventory using multi-platform LiDAR technology in Purdue’s Memorial Mall. Credit: Purdue University

Because the different platforms work together, the system also identifies data points from each that equate to the same tree feature. Ultimately, she can correlate and find out what the data above the canopy means in terms of what’s happening under the canopy, Habib said. This would be a huge jump in the speed and area of ​​forest that can be covered.

LiDAR can be used to create digital 3D maps of trees and forests, so as to virtually assess tree growth, land cover and forest conditions.

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More info:
Yi-Chun Lin et al, Comparative analysis of multi-platform, multi-resolutions, multi-time LiDAR forest inventory data, Remote monitoring (2022). DOI: 10.3390 / rs14030649

Provided by Purdue University

Quote: Integration of air and ground technologies leads to improved forest inventory and management (2022, 6 June 2022), retrieved on 6 June 2022 from aerial-ground-based-technology-forest .html

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