Forestry is an important industry, not only because of the materials it produces (such as lumber, paper, and fiber), but also because of the environmental impact it has. In recent years, drones have taken on a larger role in forestry; not just for surveillance purposes, but for tasks like mapping and replanting. In this article, we’ll explore how drones are being used in forestry and some of the benefits they bring to the table. We’ll also discuss some potential challenges that need to be tackled before drones can become an even more integral part of forestry.
Australia’s forestry industry is growing rapidly, and new drone technologies are helping to power its future. Companies offering drone services are providing more and more forestry-specific services. Advances in drones mean that they have rapidly become one of the industry’s most important tools, capable of delivering accurate data quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. In this article we’re going to take a closer look at how drones are being used in forestry and why they’re one of the industry’s most important developments.
Drones have revolutionized forestry by providing a high-quality and efficient way of surveying the land. By flying unmanned aircraft, forestry professionals are able to map out the land in a precise manner, making it easier to identify areas that need attention. Drones also provide an accurate way of measuring distances and mapping out trees and other vegetation. This information can then be used to make informed decisions about how to manage the forest. By providing them with accurate information about the state of the land, these machines are helping to protect forests from damage and ensure their continued productivity.
The Uses of Drones in Forestry Management
Drone platforms see use throughout the forestry industry. They’re used by conservation groups, plantations, government departments and more, and they’re the perfect tool for a range of forestry tasks. Capable of delivering accurate data on time and on budget, drones are deployed to perform tasks like:
- Drones equipped with imaging sensors are often used for mapping and photogrammetry work to provide a birdseye view of a forest or plantation.
- Using LiDAR, GPS sensors and post-processing software, drones can be used to quickly create accurate 3D models of a forest.
- Thermal imaging drones can be used to detect disruptions to plant life in the forest, such as the presence of fungi and plant diseases that threaten the plantation.
- Drones can be used to quickly provide detailed information about plantations, including tree count, size, diameter, volume, height and more.
- The monitoring functions performed by drones are highly repeatable. That makes them suitable for automation and it means drones can monitor changes to the environment over long periods of time.
The Challenges of Forestry Management
As a large and evolving industry, forestry presents a few unique challenges. The flexibility and capability of drone platforms mean that they’re already widely in use. On top of that, manufacturers are constantly developing new technologies to support the industry. Drones are used in a range of applications to solve several key issues in the forestry management process:
- Expansive areas – Many forestry projects take place over extremely large areas. The sheer size of national parks, forests and plantations means that they are impractical to monitor from the ground. Piloted aircraft were traditionally used, but drones can be used to perform the same functions far more effectively and affordably. Drones are quick to deploy and they can rapidly collect information that would take hundreds of hours to obtain through other means.
- Difficult and inaccessible terrain – With forestry work often taking place in remote areas with difficult terrain, drones are the perfect solution for safely accessing the data you need. Drones can be deployed to even the harshest areas that would be unsafe or impractical for ground teams to reach. They can be used to capture detailed maps and sensor information in areas that would otherwise be difficult for teams to navigate.
- Monitoring forest health – The presence of fungi, pests, plant diseases and wild animals can all have an impact on crop health. Monitoring tens of thousands of trees is a challenge, but drones equipped with thermal imaging sensors can perform the task quickly and efficiently. Many plants show signals of distress that are visible on the infrared spectrum, so thermal imaging cameras can monitor the health of a forest.
Which Drones Are Used for Forestry?
Drone manufacturers are working rapidly to keep up with the evolving needs of the forestry industry. With that said, a number of current drones serve as excellent platforms and they have vastly improved industry efficiency. Some of the platforms most commonly used by companies offering drone services Australia wide include:
- DJI Matrice 300 RTK – A commercial-grade multi-rotor drone, the DJ Matrice 300 RTK is one of the most versatile platforms used in the forestry industry. The Matrice 300 RTK is compatible with a wide range of cameras, sensors, LiDAR, radar and GPS technologies, making it perfect for forestry mapping and monitoring projects.
- DJI Agras T30 – For forestry projects requiring crop spraying or seeding, the DJI Agras T30 is a dedicated industry platform. Equipped with a 30L spraying tank, the Agras T30 is ready to perform complex tasks in remote areas. Using the Agras T30 drastically reduces the time required for spraying tasks.
- AV Quantix Mapper – A fixed wing commercial drone, the AV Quantix Mapper is ideal for mapping and imaging large forests. As a fixed wing platform, the Quantix Mapper features a much longer range and flight duration than multi-rotor platforms, so it’s often used to assess vast plantations that don’t require detailed 3D mapping or aerial spraying solutions.
Drones have quickly become a popular tool in the forestry industry, both for logging and surveying. They are versatile tools that can be used to collect data from high-altitude areas or to map out inaccessible forests. Drones can also be helpful for mapping potential areas for future forest plantations or harvesting. In short, drones are revolutionizing the way forestry is done and providing valuable insights into our natural resources that would otherwise not be available.