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Forestry and Land Scotland is working with industry specialists to improve forest surveying through the use of drone mounted lasers. 

SALTIRE - the Scottish Airborne Lidar Tool for Inventory and Resource Estimation – is based on LIDAR techniques pioneered in Finland but rarely used in the UK.

It uses reflected laser pulses to build up 3D-models of vegetation and surface topography that will help forest managers to plan transport logistics, better estimate potential harvesting costs and revenues, and determine forest and soil carbon storage dynamics.

The project is another forestry innovation to emerge from the Scottish Government’s flagship Civtech programme, that looks to identify technological solutions to real world problems. SALTIRE is being developed in a partnership involving FLS, Finnish company Arbonaut, and London based economics consultancy firm, Vivid Economics.

Josh Roberts, FLS’ Innovation Manager, said;

“The new system has the potential to be amongst the most advanced forest surveying techniques in the world. It will provide detailed information about the age and structure of Scotland’s national forests on a scale that has never been available before.

“Information about the forests we manage is the foundation for our business so this could have a huge impact on our abilities to make optimum use of our resources and make the best use of the forests we manage.

“With the demand for timber increasing steadily, there are clearly economic implications – both in terms of savings and income - but if this works it would also be of huge benefit as we work towards adapting and restructuring our forests to make them better able to withstand the impact of climate change.”

Tailored to Scottish conditions and UK forestry conventions, the new system is being tested through the airborne laser scanning of 1000 square kilometres of FLS-managed forests in Dumfries and Galloway.

The ‘challenge’ being addressed is how to take accurate, repeatable measurements of trees, timber and forests at scale, regularly and affordably.

FLS has one of the most comprehensive forest inventories in the world, yet the traditional, resource-intensive manual surveys only allowed it to survey around 3% of it’s landholding per year.

SALTIRE has the potential to vastly simplify and improve the business of maintaining and updating an accurate, comprehensive inventory across a large, dispersed landholding.


Notes to editors

  1. 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.

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  3. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Media Manager, Forestry and Land Scotland Media Office 07785 527590 or