Lidar drones that can see through the forest canopy are being used to protect native Scottish plants threatened by invasive species.
From an article by Kenneth Macdonald at the BBC
The drones use Lidar (light detection and ranging), which works like radar but uses light instead of radio waves.
Laser pulses are fired at the trees below and the time it takes for wavelengths to bounce back is used to create a 3D picture of what lies beneath.
The data is combined with information from satellites to give an accurate “fix” of the drone’s position.
It all builds up an accurate map of the health of the forest floor.
The programme is led by the Edinburgh-based company Ecometrica.
Its funding partners are the Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Orienteering, Woodland Trust and Edinburgh University.
Support has also come from the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council.
Once it is in the air, the four-rotor drone is easier to hear than see. It is a speck in the sky but packed with sensors.
It has been surveying forests in the west of Scotland: Lochgilphead, Ardfern, Auchterawe, Arisaig, Achdalieu and Mandally.
Lidar has been used from the air before but typically this has been from larger aircraft with humans on board.
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), usually known as a drone, holds out the prospect of reduced cost.
The point of the project is to monitor and map how land use is changing and how climate change is affecting Scotland’s forests.
Conventional photos taken in natural light will only show the tree canopy.
And as much of the tree cover is evergreen and there all year round, there’s no point waiting for autumn to have a look beneath it.
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