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January/February 2024 | Muedanyi Ramantswana

Enhanced Forest Stand Assessment through LiDAR Technology

Digital Technology

Stand assessment

Introduction

Precision silviculture involves accurately quantifying the plantation growing stock. When good silviculture is practiced during the establishment phase, a high stand survival and uniformity can be expected from a stand. The use of Lidar in forestry applications is aimed to achieve more precise and efficient measurements of their forestry compartments. Traditional methods used for enumeration to assess tree count, diameter at breast height (DBH), tree heights, and fallen trees are based on a selected sample area and lack the desired accuracy. In response to this, Deep-Tech Solutions sought to leverage the use of the Emesent Hovermap LiDAR scanner to revolutionize the forestry management systems.


Figure 1:Emesent Hovermap ST


Versatility

The Hovermap ST is very versatile, there are various ways in which it can be deployed to the field. The deployment method is mainly dependent on the operators best selected and suitable method for the environment of interest.




Figure 2:  Emesent Hovermap Versatility


Challenges in Forestry

Inaccuracies in traditional methods: the conventional method of tree counts, average DBH and tree heights entailed sampling a 5% area of the compartment and applying the results to the whole compartment. This method is prone to inaccuracies leading to compromised forest management decisions. Limited precision in fallen tree identification: Accurately identifying fallen trees within forestry compartments was a challenging task with traditional methods, impacting the forestry industry’s ability to address potential hazards and streamline cleanup efforts.


Advance technology solution

Deep-Tech Solutions deployed the Emesent Hovermap as a comprehensive solution to address the existing challenges associated with conventional forestry management methods. The Emesent Hovermap has 32 lasers stacked that transmit 640 000 points per second, to create a detailed 360 3-D map of forestry compartment. This enables the possibility of capturing the whole compartment by just passing the scanner on randomly selected rows. Providing accurate and high-resolution data on tree count, DBH, tree heights and fallen tree locations. The scanned 3D point cloud is uploaded onto FLAI system which is an AI system used for Forestry scan analysis to simplify the Enumeration process with accurate results.


Safety Benefits

Snakes pose a big risk, in humid and tropical areas like KZN. The Emesent Hovermap being deployed on a platforms like Boston Dynamics Spot (robotic dog) and the DJI M300 drone for data collection eliminates the need for the enumeration teams to walk into high-risk areas to capture data required for analysis and monthly reporting. With this technology, the team can stand at a safe operational distance sending the robots into these areas and still achieving a 100% data capture of the stand with accurate results for the analysis of the area of interest.




Figure 3: Autonomous drone scan using Emesent Hovermap


Figure 4: Spot scanning forestry compartment


Data Collection and Processing: Existing Deep-Tech Use Case 

The compartments were systematically scanned using the versatile Emesent Hovermap. The initial scan was an autonomous drone scan, having the Hovermap mounted onto a DJI Matrice 300 drone. The Hovermap was then attached to the Boston Dynamics quadruped robot, Spot, to scan the rows of the compartment. Lastly, the Hovermap was transferred to the Emesent backpack, to conduct a walking scan of the compartment. The raw data was processed using the Aura to create comprehensive digital models of the models. 


Figure 4: Detailed 3D point cloud on Aura



The data was analyzed in partnership with FLAI, a web-based AI platform, with sophisticated algorithms that enable users to run statistical analyses on the compartment data. The FLAI software is also equipped to automatically detect fallen trees and run measurements on tree heights and DBH.



Figure 5: Analysis on FLAI


The successful integration of LiDAR technology using the Emesent Hovermap not only improved collection and analysis of data in the forestry industry in terms of efficiency, accuracy also as well as the visualization of the forest compartments for better reporting and critical decision making that improves the profit margins.