DRONES IN FORESTRYManagement of Forests is an extremely complex process and foresters need to use every technological edge they can muster to provide for optimal decision making in day to operations. The application of Drones is not new, both in routine operations as well as fire and disaster management in forestry services around the world.
Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.
There are a myriad variant roles the use of Drone technology plays in forestry Management, a natural resource that has seen high levels of deforestation this century and a 62% decrease in forested areas in the tropics over the last 20 years alone. Management of forests is a complex and macro “farming” concept and the use of UAV/Drones opens up a new state of the art support technology to good management practices. The use of aerial videography and photography can provide a host of good management tools in assessment of aspects such as:
- Canopy condition and total cover determinants
- Biomass of the region
- Forest classification and inventory (including highlighting possible invasives)
- Tree Height and condition including assessment of plant diseases and spread
- Pest infestation
- Moisture content of ground areas under review
- Topographical aspects, erosion monitoring etc.
- Historic imagery and analysis data bases such that conditions can be plotted over extended time frames.
- Condition of firebreaks and Fire Emergency monitoring services (including prevalent wind assessment, fire spread, core temperatures etc.).
- Leading edge analytics compiled from flight data obtained.
Where conventionally forest conservation was done utilising ground stations and periodic helicopter flights over the region, the use of UAV/Drones is a highly cost efficient and less time consuming alternative that also ensures maximum safety to personnel. It is essentially a proactive approach to timber plantation monitoring and management and highly skilled pilots and support personnel can ensure optimal property assessment even where time frames are critical. It is possible for a drone to cover 100 hectares in an hour of flying and the aircraft can be pre-programmed on automated flight course where so desired. The manpower component becomes a fraction of historic management strategies and of course, the safety factor is vastly improved.
The option obviously exists for large Forestry Corporations to deploy their own Drone operations across afforested areas however this is only one aspect of the process. Leading IT software analysis and constantly evolving technologies have ensured this is not a static industry but fluid in both design and application. It makes vastly more sense to contract in specialist services from Flight operations specialising in your field of business application. Even where the use of Drone aircraft is a daily occurrence, the contracting out of this specialist field of flight operations will always prove preferable to internal applications – it is our core business and therefore we cannot afford to fall behind emerging trends in the flying, photographic and videography fields. Indeed, it is through our commitment that we too are integrally involved in research of components of flight operations.
Core to successful forestry among other aspects, is the ability to not only react quickly to prevailing conditions, but to be able to establish an historic record of veld, soil and environmental conditions. The use of Drone footage allows a video library to be established which reflects changes to the environment over time.