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New LiDAR Tool Provides Innovation in Harvest Planning

PF Olsen is at the forefront of the application of new LiDAR technology (Light Detection and Ranging) to both lower the costs and improve the quality of harvest planning.

Dean Neilson, PF Olsen's National Engineering Manager, is involved in several pilot projects involving capturing the "imagery" and then rendering and interpreting it to provide a highly accurate digital terrain model (DTM). "The nifty thing about the data capture ("image") is that it can be done through the tree canopy; enough data gets through the gaps in the canopy for the algorithms to "join the dots" and create an accurate and up-to-date model", explains Dean. "The implications are huge including being able to do cut and fill calculations direct from the DTM without the need for expensive survey. It will also ensure that the road planning avoids active slip zones that might otherwise be obscured by the tree canopy".

Dean is using his skills and experience with CAD (computer aided design) to use the LiDAR-generated DTMs to produce accurate harvest and engineering plans and design. This will not only increase the productivity of harvest planning but also improve cost, quality and environmental outcomes for harvesting and roading operations.

Currently the capturing or acquiring the LiDAR is expensive due to the highly specialised "camera" needed. It is hoped that collaboration with groups of forest owners as well as other private and public land owners and managers will provide the economies of scale to bring per hectare costs down to acceptable levels.

If this project goes to plan, PF Olsen will soon be able to provide improved harvest planning services for forest-owner clients and reduce adverse environmental effects whilst lowering harvesting and roading costs.

LiDAR technology is enormously valuable in other applications as well. The Future Forests Research (FFR) Radiata theme is promoting LiDAR as:

  • An easy and more accurate way to determine tree heights;
  • A direct way to estimate volume and velocity (i.e. stiffness of wood);
  • A better way to stratify forests to gain better precision of estimates at lower cost.

Dean is presenting his work at the upcoming ForestTECH event in Rotorua 6-7 December 2011.

In this example the hill shade has been overlain by the ecosystem protection categories extracted from PF Olsen's forest and land database (FIPS) and the expected native fish communities as determined from the Fresh Water Environments NZ dataset, a copy of which has been obtained from the Department of Conservation.