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Drones carry out 18,000-hectare inventory in Russia

The Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) has employed BVLOS drones to carry out tree-wise forest inventory on an area of 18,000 hectares in North-West Russia. A huge need exists for up-to-date, precise forest inventory data in Russia. Source: Timberbiz

The transition from extensive forest management to intensive forest management has already started in several regions of northwest Russia, resulting in an increase in pulpwood available on the market.

Detailed information on current forest resources is a basic requirement for this transition.

Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drones were used to cover an area of 18,000 hectares in four days. BVLOS is one of the most promising concepts in the commercial drone world, as it enables service providers to cover huge areas in a relatively short period of time, with spatial resolution of one cm per pixel.

BVLOS is expected to change the market for commercial drone users, offering a cheaper alternative to current applications such as airplanes and helicopters. The relatively low human involvement will drive costs down, leaving only questions of regulation and data processing.

With BVLOS, the latter requires different approaches than those of traditional consumer drones due to the large size of data.

During the ISKRA project atotal of 13,652,458 trees were mapped using drone data and data processing algorithms developed for the project. Each tree’s height, breast height diameter, species and age were measured.

In order to fulfill the local Russian forest inventory standard, the tree-wise information was aggregated and delineated into 3067 stands, each with its own attributes. It was noted that this local standard requires a large average stand size, causing a significant loss of value of tree-wise information for practical forest management.

The project demonstrates a huge potential of drones for smart forest management not only in Russia but also in Finland. The drones could be applied to forest inventory, as well as to improving forest operations, including the assessment of the need for thinning young stands, the evaluation of the quality of forest regeneration, and the assessment of the state of planted young seedlings, as well as the evaluation of annual growth performance for every single tree, stem quality, seedling delivery to planting locations, and seed spraying.

In addition, the drones could assist in the creation of “digital forest twins” (virtual forests based on real tree-wise 3D data).

The development and testing of a method suitable for Russia was facilitated by funding from the European Regional Development Fund and the Regional Council of North Karelia.