October 27, 2020 | Authors: Field Supervisor/Project Manager, Victor Fobert
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Drones or UAVs have developed from large and relatively expensive tools into many of today’s more cost-effective and efficient tools in the forest. They are now being picked up by more users due to their versatility; some are hard-working drones capable of carrying payloads, while other drones are used for their ability to capture high-quality images and videos. So, what can you do with a drone in the forest?
Obvious answers include photo work of potential working areas, scouting of access lines or assessments of damage from a weather event, such as hail or maybe a tornado. We live in Canada, meaning an early or late season snow event can wreak havoc on a young forest. Photo documentation of your cutblock following a treatment can be worth a thousand words a few years later during an audit. When it comes to drones, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
These are just a few roles that a drone can fill in the forest industry. Many of these roles are further enhanced with the use of the software available through 3rd party apps. Once able to start making use of these tools, the opportunities begin to grow as now you can create maps and overlays for your digital databases. Want to monitor the progress of your worksite or do an area-based audit of completed work? What better way than to use a drone to map the progress over time.
As the photos are taken, they receive a geo-reference which allows the data processing software in other application to be able to plot them. This information is invaluable to produce the various final products, which can include but are not limited to canopy height updates, forest health mapping, waste and residue surveys or forest inventories and timber typing.
As drone technology continues to evolve, the importance of the data we capture will continue to change with it. More opportunities for drones will become apparent as the forest industry continues to learn and explore the capabilities of this new tool.