Improving Forestry Operations with Drone Data

April 15, 2020

The forestry industry is no stranger to innovation. While the U.S. has been practicing the craft since colonial times, the modern forestry profession emerged in the late 1800s. Forestry professionals were some of the first to use radical advancements in technology such as chainsaws and harvesters – now standard equipment in the field – so it should come as no surprise that organizations are increasingly turning to drone technology to aid in their operations. Whether monitoring plant health, tracking planting and harvesting, or determining weather damage, drone software can improve safety, timelines, and cost savings per acre stand.


Reforestation Efforts

Regardless of whether you’re in the non-profit (conservation) or for-profit sector, reforestation is essential within forestry to ensure sustainable business practices and healthy output. Rather than spending months walking the forest, workers can use a drone to survey the area and remain within regulation by the Forest Stewardship Council. This aerial view provides an in-depth look at the space and can be used to identify riparian gaps or erosion and perform stand counts. One nature group and partner uses the tool to create detailed maps to aid in the reforestation effort of Minnesota’s North Shore, pinpointing thin spots and using this information to boost wildlife populations.


The Harvest Cycle

Within the forestry profession, drone data can be used for silvicultural planning, detecting plant health, or tracking progress. Tree health is pertinent to creating a good crop, and early detection is necessary to prevent the spread of disease or invasive species. DroneDeploy customer Rayonier used the software to find and remove encroaching plants and beetles, and develop a treatment for the affected areas. Additionally, aerial imagery can help detect illegal logging activity.

DroneDeploy’s Thermal Live Map and Multispectral imagery are crucial to evaluating overall tree health by measuring their stress response. This data can infer nutrient deficiencies caused by events like drought damage, allowing for a treatment plan to fix defects. From here, the results of herbicides or fertilizers can be measured and evaluated from above. At just a fraction of the cost of using an airplane, users can revisit the data, document actions, and assign next steps.

Post-production, DroneDeploy is a valuable tool in analyzing performance to make adjustments for the next season. These insights include how the stand progressed, the loss from initial planting, and the overall harvest as compared to previous seasons.

No matter the phase of the harvest cycle, DroneDeploy saves time by removing the need for manual inspections and automating the silvicultural process. Creating 3D models of the stand allows the user to measure tree height to estimate production without having to leave the office.

Knowing this information, workers can readjust their planting process while there’s still time, and estimate total output by determining where to plant, thin, or cut. Minimizing this gap between harvesting and planting results in a more significant ROI and a more bountiful growing season. If you’re interested in using DroneDeploy for your forestry processes, read our forestry piece or contact us. Want more information? Download our eBook on drones in agriculture.

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