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Robots take flight to improve forestry

9 November 2020

Much has been reported on the development and advancements of local research efforts into robotics and automated data capture for forest operations. Elsewhere, USA-based company Treeswift provides an example of how researchers in other parts of the world are embracing the use of robotic tools to help automate forestry, reduce risk for workers, and collect highly accurate data more quickly.

Steven Chen, Co-founder and CEO of Treeswift and doctoral student in Computer and Information Science at Penn Engineering has developed a fleet of drones equipped with LiDAR sensors, that have the capability to fly over forests, collect images, and use them to create detailed 3-D maps.

These drones can be used to calculate inventory, map forests for preservation, and measure biomass and fuel for the prevention of bushfires. Data collected also has potential to be used by researchers to assess the health of forests and create predictive models that support climate change initiatives.

Traditional forest management practices tend to be manual, time consuming, and carry with them varying degrees of risk. They also have the potential for human error. These disadvantages all amount to a large effort for the collection of a small amount of data.

In December last year, Chen received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research grant to develop his network of drones or ‘flying robots’. This funding has helped to attract additional scientists and engineers to the initiative.

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Source: FWPA R&D Works , Phys.org.

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