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TimberWest November/December 2013

January/February 2016

ON THE COVER
Photo taken at the 2015 Oregon Logging
Conference

Download the OLC Showguide

Running Big, Running Strong
Jerry DeBriae, owner and founder of Jerry DeBriae Logging Inc. of Cathlamet, Washington, has over five decades of experience tackling just about every challenge a logging contractor will face.

A Road Well Travelled
R D Reeves Construction finds the solutions to stay diversified and local.

Woody Biomass
Stripping fact from fiction

All Hands on Deck
Miller Timber Services and Wildland Firefighting Crews

Tire Evaluation Test

China Amping up Imports
China aims to increase the volume of timber imports from the U.S. despite stagnant economy.

Foresters Face Paradigm Shift 
for Logging Steep Slopes

Technology from New Zealand is set to create a whole new — and safer — way of logging

Gradual Growth for North American Sawmill
Vancouver Urban Timberworks started out modestly and grew into their new Wood-Mizer WM1000

DEPARTMENTS

In the News

Association News

Machinery Row

New Products

Guest Column

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 CLICK to download a pdf of this article

Paivi Yuval, senior forester
at Intelescope SolutionsCan Drones Provide a Critical Edge in Forestry Asset and Risk Management

Forestry owners in the United States face a multitude of challenges with regard to the management of their risks and assets. Often their forest areas are too large to manage safely and accurately with traditional “boots on the ground” methods.

In this conversation, Paivi Yuval, senior forester at Intelescope Solutions, answers key questions regarding drone technology and how unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can assist in—and perhaps revolutionize—forestry asset and risk management.

How well do American forestry owners and managers maintain forest assets and risks? What mistakes do they make regarding the management of their forestry risks and assets?

Paivi Yuval, senior forester at Intelescope Solutions

Decisions made in forestry are all about timing: knowing the right time to harvest, perform thinning or any other silvicultural operation, or sell or buy timberland. The information these determinations are based upon is very often incomplete. This creates the potential for a high level of unknown risk, and therefore, a suboptimal environment for decision-making.

The risks are particularly high when purchasing timberlands, which are very long-term and financially large-scale investments.

How are forestry owners/managers currently controlling their forestry risks and assets?

They collect a plethora of information regarding their assets, most of which is done in a traditional fashion: boots on the ground sampling. This expensive, time consuming, and risky approach includes assessing a portion of the forest area (a designated percentage) and making generalized assumptions about the forest as a whole based on those results.

How widely used are drones in the management of forestry risks and assets?

In the U.S., drones are on the verge of revolutionizing the industry. The FAA has approved over 700 exemptions for commercial drone operations in the U.S. under Part 333 and continues to receive about 50 applications per month, according to the Bard College Center for the Study of the Drone. While drones are not currently widely used in the U.S., that could change very soon.

What are the risks associated with forestry ownership/management?

Typically there are three risk areas:

• Natural phenomena: pests, storms, wildfires, and more. With the world in the midst of global climate change, the role these risks play can be expected to increase.

• Incomplete data and ill-informed decisions: making determinations based on inaccurate information can lead to silvicultural operations taking place in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

• Wood market prices: The market price of timber depends on the global economy and the market price of wood products. There is some flexibility here since forest managers can opt to delay a harvest until wood prices are more favorable.

How do drones help with forestry risk and asset management?

 Drones assist in three different spheres:

 Accuracy: drones can mitigate the risks related to natural phenomena and incomplete information.

 Monitoring is the most crucial way to manage these risks. For example, drone technology allows the entire forest area to be sampled and assessed for different kinds of pathogens (ones that cause discoloration or defoliation) and wind or fire damage. These risks can also be managed by silvicultural operations, so having access to accurate data that supports better decision-making is invaluable.

Sample-based decision-making in forest management and forestry asset management can be replaced by more reliable, census-based decision-making, because the whole forest area is assessed. This can be done by using imagery from a new high-resolution drone or satellite (or a combination of both). The cost of this technology continues to decrease while the accuracy is ever increasing. This alone is not enough; automatic image analysis algorithms to process this immense amount of data are also necessary.

Safety: Drones also allow access to areas that have been too difficult or dangerous to reach by foot due to rough terrain.

Speed: Drones (and especially satellites) can capture images over extensive areas very quickly, whereas collecting data using traditional methods can take days or weeks.

How can the return on investment from the utilization of drones in forestry asset and risk management be determined?

Drone technology can reduce or even replace the need for traditional forest inventory methodologies. This will be reflected in the cost of data collection from the forest. The indirect benefit (not as easily quantifiable) is better—more accurate and real-time—data on the forests, which allows improved decision-making and more efficient use of resources.

Where do you see drone-led forestry asset and risk management going?

Technology — both in drones and cameras — is continually getting more advanced and cost efficient. Drones will be able to capture bigger areas during a single flight mission, thereby reducing costs, and camera resolution will have ever-advancing spectral properties allowing for a more sophisticated analysis. This could enable further analysis of forest structure, detection of very young trees for survivability analysis after forest establishment, early detection of disease, or big data analysis on forest dynamics. 

The use of drones in forestry management has the potential to enhance the cost effectiveness, safety, quality, and timeliness of many data gathering and image acquisition missions.