‘Magic-eye’ drones help to improve site planning
Laser equipped drones that can ‘see’ the lay of the land beneath a forest canopy are helping Forestry and Land Scotland to plan how it manages woodlands.
The LIDAR drones have been helping FLS’s East Region team with planning the felling of trees affected by Phytopthora ramorum, a disease which is steadily making its way towards Drummond Hill, above Kenmore and Loch Tay.
LIDAR is a system that gathers very precise measurements of both the canopy and forest floor by ‘bouncing’ laser beams from the drone to the surface and back again.
Robin Almond, the FLS Planning Forester who looks after this woodland, said;
“This is a really terrible disease that devastates larch trees and if it were to reach the larch on Drummond Hill, the scenic beauty and character of the place would be very seriously affected.
“There is no cure for the disease and the only tool at our disposal for tackling it is to fell trees already affected and to create a buffer zone around healthy trees that might keep the disease at bay.
“This is something that we have to start planning for Drummond Hill but we want to minimise the felling if we can and also carry it out with as little impact as possible on the more sensitive habitat areas on the hill. LIDAR lets us map the forest and the ground it sits on to a high resolution, which lets us plan this down to some very specific detail.”
Different felling techniques (for bigger, smaller or more sensitive areas) require different kinds of machinery, so mapping potential access routes helps the team to assess what technique is most appropriate for any given part of the woodland.
LIDAR is more effective than a visual walkover inspection when it comes to covering the entire site. It is also better at identifying surface hazards (like crags or large, loose boulders) possibly hidden from view that might need to be made safe in case they are dislodged during the felling works.
The team can also use the data to assess the impact of having fewer trees on the hill on peak water flows so that they can design a suitable drainage plan to lessen the risk of flooding of the public road below the woodland.
Jamie Watt, the Survey Director at Innovair, said;
“From the measurements gathered we can build up an extremely precise model of the forest floor, pinpoint any issues and along with the geotechnical engineers, from Mott MacDonald, identify where additional safety measures – such as catch-fencing - might be required.
“This helps ensure that the team can plan the work in meticulous detail and carry it out safely and sensitively.”
Once the felling has been completed, FLS intends to plant a mixture of tree species that will retain the site’s important landscape character for many years to come.
Notes to editors
Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) manages forests and land owned by Scottish Ministers in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry; conserves and enhances the environment; delivers benefits for people and nature; and supports Scottish Ministers in their stewardship of Scotland's national forests and land.