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Practical Applications of Drone Technology in Forest Management

Forestry is the science art and practice of sustainably managing forests for the benefit of humans.Think of forests as a complex system. All of the pieces need to work together and someone has the responsibility of making them work to reach certain goals. Forests are managed for different results. Some are managed for wood products including timber. Some are managed for wildlife habitat, camping, hiking and for many other uses. Forest managers use tools to figure out what needs to happen to reach those goals. It could be growing or planting new trees, cutting or thinning existing trees for economic gain or forest health practices or changing the habitat to enhance certain species over the other. Most of these tasks are done through monitoring and management. An important tool that is emerging in the forestry field is drone technology.

Do you believe that CO2 is changing the global climate? If you do, then carbon sequestration has to be a part of the global climate solution. Either way, trees need planting, and we works with both forestry companies to reforest logged areas, and environmental NGOs to combat deforestation. If you have an automation company that makes it orders of magnitude less expensive to plant and grow trees, that's going to be part of the global carbon sequestration solution, it has to be. That is a major step forward in reducing carbon emissions. What you can envision for the future? The robotic is a way to make reforestation truly scalable. There's been a lot of slash-and-burn agriculture, so how do you then go out and replant those in a cost-effective way? And that's where drone technology comes in. The end objective is using drones to plant tree seeds, spray to protect them and then monitor their growth. That's how to able to address a large forestry unit, both for spraying, as well as planting in the future.

The practical applications of drone technology in the forestry and natural resource management fields

Advantages of Drones in Forestry

Drones have found applicability in a variety of study fields especially in the field of forestry. Researchers have found out that using drones in forest management is not only the high-resolution data that can be collected flexibly in a short time and at a relatively low price, but also not very labor intensive. Right now, Forrester companies, they spend millions recruiting the labor to go out there and plant trees. Good tree planter can replant somewhere between 800 trees a day, which is about two acres. While, One person with 15 drones could do the equivalent of 360 manual labor hours of tree planting or spraying in a day. There are several uses of drones in the field of forestry as has been outlined below.

1. Forest mapping and biodiversity

Drones can be used in forest mapping. A small drone type aircraft (under 1 kg) was deployed to fly over a forested area with a flight time range of approximately 25 min per flight and a maximum distance traveled per flight of about 15 km. And this was able to return data that showed the vastness of the forest and other relevant information including human activities, logging, wildlife or flora species.
2. Precision Forestry and Sustainable Forest Planning Management

Different parameters relating to forests such as the extent of canopy cover, the number of trees, volume estimation, vitality or composition of stands can also be achieved efficiently through the use of unmanned aircrafts. This data collected by use of drones are usually accurate and can help in quick and better decisions that improve optimal quality and productivity of forest plantations, especially nowadays when the demand for timber is highly increasing.

3. Mapping and measuring canopy gaps

Forest disturbances are mostly caused by wind and snow and these have a direct impact on the regeneration, the biodiversity, and the productivity of forest plantations. Satellite imagery was initially used to access this kind of data by mapping the canopy gaps but the information was not as accurate as it needed to be. This however changed with the introduction of drone remote sensing.

Canopy heights and other canopy attributes are some of the best features of forest used by forest professionals. This data needs to be accessed accurately and thanks to LiDAR technology that can now be mounted on drones, the information can be accessed fast and efficiently. Also, drones with oblique optical sensor combined with new digital photogrammetry techniques can provide new methods for measuring canopy height.

These all information are not only relevant to forest researchers but also to forest farmers.

4. Monitoring forest health

How the practical applications of drone technology can be used in a forest resource professionals day-to-day activities? These drones have the capability of flying hundreds of feet above the forest canopy to be able to monitor forest health. Forest health is an important part of balancing the ecosystem and maintaining natural resource growth, also being able to use these to monitor illegal logging that is a issue of forestry.
5. 3D mapping for carbon storag

In the past, measuring the extent of carbon storage in biomass has been very labor intensive and very expensive. But thanks to the introduction of drone technology, remote sensing can now be used to get 3D mapping of carbon storage within forests.

6. For forest-fire fighting

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as tools for forest-fire fighting. It is important to mention that forest fires’ monitoring and management was one of the first field in forestry that showed the importance of drones in forestry. Wild fires often cause extensive damage to land and soil after the fire has been extinguished. The process of land restoration is what takes years as it requires extensive land survey and tree planting that could take years. Drones can be used to do these surveys fast and reduce the cost and time of land restoration. measured accurately using satellite data, but it can now be achieved using drone remote sensing.

7. Tree planting with drones

Drones save time inspecting tracts of land that have been harvested or recently replanted. The land is often not evenly distributed and it is sometimes inaccessible. Drones can be used to distribute seedlings in these areas in a fast and efficient manner and ensure trees are planted. In addition to, Ensuring responsible harvesting while monitoring the next generation of trees.

8. Monitoring illegal logging

Drones are now being used to monitor illegal quarrying especially in forested areas that cannot be easily accessible by humans. Drones can fly over these areas and determine where the trees have been affected by human activities.And then, the data can be transferred to the relevant authorities who use it to make informed decisions.

9. Dropping fertilizer and specifying fertilizer application rates

One of the most difficult labor jobs is the sprinkling of manure and fertilizer in forested areas. UAV drones have come in handy in helping to spread fertilizer over forested areas that were previously inaccessible. In addition to, Near-Infrared (NIR) imagery from UAV and satellites can be used to specify fertilizer application rates in tree crops.

10. For forest research

Some companies interested in forest research have employed the use of drones because they are lower-in cost and save a lot of time. Drones can fly overhead, easily collect data related to the forests including the extent of the forest cover, forest attributes and so on.

Conclusion: The advantages are clear. Drones are an innovative tool that will greatly increase for street managers, activities on a day to day basis. A drone will allow for increased monitoring and enhance the ranges that these forestry professionals can cover. They will allow for better management and conservation of our forests moving into the future. Practical applications of drone technology in forest management can be used such as for forest mapping, forest management planning, canopy height model creation or mapping forest gaps.These advantages of drone technology have great potential in the near future applications and their quick implementation in a variety of situations. We all desire for the sustainable management of forests.