Mapping trees with 3D mobile mapping technology

6 November 2018

Placed first in Australia and 20th in the world in the 2016 QS University Rankings, Australian National University (ANU) is a research institution with its main campus in Canberra, the country’s capital. Research currently underway in a joint effort between ANU and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is tracking tree growth and development over time using GeoSLAM’s “go-anywhere” 3D mobile mapping technology.

Known as the ‘Precision Measurement of Trees and Forests’project and being conducted in the field by a team which includes Tom Jovanovic, former CSIRO researcher and now Visiting Fellow at ANU’s Fenner School of Environment and Society, the project is currently in its fourth year. The team is charged with comparing and contrasting different ways of collecting data, using different terrestrial and airborne laser scanners, and working with digital imagery.

The team has been using UK-based GeoSLAM’s handheld laser scanner since the beginning of the project, which is being conducted in a survey area within the National Arboretum, Canberra (NAC). Featuring some 44,000 rare, endangered, and symbolic trees from around Australia and more than 100 other countries, the arboretum is made up of 94 mini-forests spread over a 250-hectare area within sight of Canberra’s centre. Most of the trees are young but some date back over 100 years.

In addition to GeoSLAM’s handheld and mobile scanner, the ZEB1, the team also uses fixed point scanning and traditional forestry measures – such as Suunto and digital photographs from UAV’s – over like areas, and Tom Jovanovic explains that the technologies are complementary, “Using GeoSLAM from the outset, as well as a different system, has enabled us to compare and contrast different measurements and combine them into a heavily monitored site finding. This produces the high level of resolution that we need.”

Emphasising that the project is specifically designed to take advantage of both static and mobile approaches, Tom Jovanovic says, “What’s nice about scanning with the ZEB1 is that it doesn’t involve repeatedly setting up in different locations within the research plot. You just initiate the start-up procedure then walk around the plot covering the trees from different angles.”

All forestry professionals like Tom need access to user-friendly technology that is easy to operate while being robust and reliable enough to do the job quickly and accurately. With the ZEB1, he says it takes only 10 to 15 minutes to completely cover a 30 square meter plot, adding, “What I really like about this product is that wherever you can walk, you can scan. It really is a case of ‘go-anywhere’.” More >>