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Logging and Sawmilling Journal March/April 2014

MaY 2014

On the Cover:
Millyards are busier than they’ve been in quite a while with the recovery in the forest industry now having a firm hold, with mills ramping up and starting up. You can read all about the start-up of the Carrier Group’s sawmill in Big River, Saskatchewan (Photo of Liebherr 934 sorting logs at a Tolko operation in the B.C. Interior by
Paul MacDonald).

Missed opportunity?
There’s an opportunity to deal with the growing volumes of greenhouse gas emissions in B.C.—with increased tree planting and restoration of the province’s forests—but it may be a missed opportunity, going by forecasted tree planting in B.C. and a provincial government focused on fossil fuel development.

Big sawmill news in Big River
The start-up of the sawmill in Big River, Saskatchewan—with its annual production target of 250 million board feet of lumber—is big news for the Carrier Group of Companies, and the community.

Diversifying after the downturn
Veteran Alberta logging contractor Herman Derksen—having survived the downturn and made some investments in new logging equipment—is thinking diversification is part of the path to maintaining a sustainable business.

Casting the line further with new tong thrower
A new tong thrower developed by young logger Eric Krume is proving to be productive and portable—it is self-contained and can easily be moved from machine to machine.

Ponsse batting 9,000
Logging equipment manufacturer Ponsse recently marked an impressive milestone, producing its 9,000th production machine, and the company continues to be known for its innovation. Just ask Quebec logging contractor Rejean Girard, who bought #9,000, an ElephantKing forwarder.

The Edge
Included in The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions, FPInnovations and Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures.

Back in the bush
Mike and Lana Daniels, having exited from the forest industry a few years’ back, are now back, but this time around they are applying M and M Logging’s skills to “make things happen” in the fast-paced oil and gas industry in Alberta.

Innovator and ideas man
Nova Scotia’s Walter Rodler is a true wood products innovator, and his work has resulted in improvements in production and safety for equipment from chainsaw mills through to wood splitters— and he’s still working away on new innovations.

The Last Word
If the regulators can figure things out, loggers could be laying out cutblocks with the assistance of drones in the not-too-distant future, says Jim Stirling.


Tech Update: Mulchers and Vegetation Control Equipment




 CLICK to download a pdf of this article

Laying out cutblocks—with a drone?

By Jim Stirling

Drones have a sinister reputation. They were originally used for delivering death, inflicting damage or for eavesdropping and espionage during times of conflict. But like other wartime equipment and methods, drones and the principles behind them have been adapted for more peaceful purposes.

Uses for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)—as they are more politely called in their newer guises—seem limited only by the imagination. And, as it turns out, by regulation.

Drone technology has been applied to delivering aid and packages to rural and isolated areas. More imaginatively, a scientific team from John Moores University in Liverpool, England uses drones to help calculate the densities of orangutans in the Indonesian rainforests.

Even Facebook is considering getting in on the drone movement. The social network wants to spread its reach ever further and reckons drones can be employed to that end by beaming wireless internet access to the most undeveloped corners of the world.

UAV uses are also applicable to forestry. In theory, they offer an enticing menu of possibilities. For instance, the technology has been successfully applied to efforts designed to reduce deforestation in Brazil.

Much closer to home, UAV can be useful tools for industrial applications such as timber cruising, silviculture, cut block layout, detailing vegetation stress and forest fire hot spot identification.

J.R. Canadian Mapping Ltd., based in Prince George, British Columbia, employs UAV as part of its services for the delivery of precision mapping and close range photogrammetry to clients worldwide. The company’s UAV are fitted with digital and video cameras that can take high resolution photos every second. The UAV typically flies slowly, averaging about 15 metres/second and can traverse about 250 hectares of forest in 45 minutes. The vehicle takes two people to deploy.

“We don’t design or build the individual components,” explained John Rankin, president of J.R. Canadian Mapping. “We order the components from all over and assemble them here in town. They are completely off the shelf. We are not in the UAV development business. We are mapping professionals.”

J.R Canadian Mapping’s UAV can effectively cover about 1000 hectares in a single flight and provide detailed photos down to a six to 10 centimetre resolution. “We can tell you complete tree cover information, including density, distribution, detailed tree heights, elevations and the complete topographical features under the trees,” he continued.”We also use UAV in many other industries, including mining and agriculture: anywhere where customers require high quality, three dimensional surfaces to work with.”

The UAV can be especially economic for specific forestry applications. “We can use the UAV to fly, say 2000 hectares, where it’s a one-time thing and not worth the cost of bringing in an aircraft.”

But there’s a more fundamental—not to mention frustrating—restriction on the more widespread forestry applications for UAV.

“We’re limited to how high we can fly. Transport Canada has established a ceiling,” noted Rankin. “We are also limited by line of sight even though visual restrictions make no sense in the vast majority of cases.”

It’s a phenomenon not restricted to Canada. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the U.S. bans the commercial use of UAV with some exceptions, like hobbyist use under operator line of sight in non-populated areas. Lobbying both for and against more open commercial use of UAV is gathering momentum south of the border.

The opening up of the skies side of the issue is being driven by growing commercial demand for the use of UAV weighing under 25 kilograms. The FAA is going to select six sites across the U.S. to help the agency better understand the implications of integrating UAV into American airspace. That process comes with a September 2015 deadline.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International believes UAV have a huge potential to boost the U.S. economy by tens of billions of dollars each year. Even the FAA estimates there could be 10,000 UAV flying around as early as 2017. In the meantime, North America is losing ground to Europe in the range of applications and regular deployment of UAV. Civil UAV have their own designated airfields in some European countries.

Such occurrences are alarming for those parties gathered on the anti-drone side of the debate. Many are concerned about the privacy impacts of UAV use. Drones have a lingering reputation as a front for spying. Many individual states have considered bills designed to restrict UAV use. Individual cities have outright banned them. And it seems the Wild West syndrome is alive and flourishing in some quarters.

A town in Colorado, for example, is apparently seriously looking at allowing its citizenry to shoot down any UAV flying the skies above them. Rewards would even be offered for recovering the bits and pieces of any vehicle ambushed from overhead and turned in to the authorities.

Given the past history between the U.S. and Canada, if the more sensible heads prevail in the U.S. and the FAA experimentation with a cautious loosening of UAV restrictions proves successful, similar moves could follow north of the border. That in turn, could permit companies like J.R. Canadian Mapping to adapt and refine the range of UAV delivered technologies and services to the forest industry in B.C. and other forested regions across the country.