Current issue: 55(3)
Under compilation: 55(4)
Remote sensing using unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) -borne sensors is currently a highly interesting approach for the estimation of forest characteristics. 3D remote sensing data from airborne laser scanning or digital stereo photogrammetry enable highly accurate estimation of forest variables related to the volume of growing stock and dimension of the trees, whereas recognition of tree species dominance and proportion of different tree species has been a major complication in remote sensing-based estimation of stand variables. In this study the use of UAV-borne hyperspectral imagery was examined in combination with a high-resolution photogrammetric canopy height model in estimating forest variables of 298 sample plots. Data were captured from eleven separate test sites under weather conditions varying from sunny to cloudy and partially cloudy. Both calibrated hyperspectral reflectance images and uncalibrated imagery were tested in combination with a canopy height model based on RGB camera imagery using the k-nearest neighbour estimation method. The results indicate that this data combination allows accurate estimation of stand volume, mean height and diameter: the best relative RMSE values for those variables were 22.7%, 7.4% and 14.7%, respectively. In estimating volume and dimension-related variables, the use of a calibrated image mosaic did not bring significant improvement in the results. In estimating the volumes of individual tree species, the use of calibrated hyperspectral imagery generally brought marked improvement in the estimation accuracy; the best relative RMSE values for the volumes for pine, spruce, larch and broadleaved trees were 34.5%, 57.2%, 45.7% and 42.0%, respectively.
In this paper we examine the feasibility of data from unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-borne aerial imagery in stand-level forest inventory. As airborne sensor platforms, UAVs offer advantages cost and flexibility over traditional manned aircraft in forest remote sensing applications in small areas, but they lack range and endurance in larger areas. On the other hand, advances in the processing of digital stereo photography make it possible to produce three-dimensional (3D) forest canopy data on the basis of images acquired using simple lightweight digital camera sensors. In this study, an aerial image orthomosaic and 3D photogrammetric canopy height data were derived from the images acquired by a UAV-borne camera sensor. Laser-based digital terrain model was applied for estimating ground elevation. Features extracted from orthoimages and 3D canopy height data were used to estimate forest variables of sample plots. K-nearest neighbor method was used in the estimation, and a genetic algorithm was applied for selecting an appropriate set of features for the estimation task. Among the selected features, 3D canopy features were given the greatest weight in the estimation supplemented by textural image features. Spectral aerial photograph features were given very low weight in the selected feature set. The accuracy of the forest estimates based on a combination of photogrammetric 3D data and orthoimagery from UAV-borne aerial imaging was at a similar level to those based on airborne laser scanning data and aerial imagery acquired using purpose-built aerial camera from the same study area.