Current issue: 54(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.
Optical 2D remote sensing techniques such as aerial photographing and satellite imaging have been used in forest inventory for a long time. During the last 15 years, airborne laser scanning (ALS) has been adopted in many countries for the estimation of forest attributes at stand and sub-stand levels. Compared to optical remote sensing data sources, ALS data are particularly well-suited for the estimation of forest attributes related to the physical dimensions of trees due to its 3D information. Similar to ALS, it is possible to derive a 3D forest canopy model based on aerial imagery using digital aerial photogrammetry. In this study, we compared the accuracy and spatial characteristics of 2D satellite and aerial imagery as well as 3D ALS and photogrammetric remote sensing data in the estimation of forest inventory variables using k-NN imputation and 2469 National Forest Inventory (NFI) sample plots in a study area covering approximately 5800 km2. Both 2D data were very close to each other in terms of accuracy, as were both the 3D materials. On the other hand, the difference between the 2D and 3D materials was very clear. The 3D data produce a map where the hotspots of volume, for instance, are much clearer than with 2D remote sensing imagery. The spatial correlation in the map produced with 2D data shows a lower short-range correlation, but the correlations approach the same level after 200 meters. The difference may be of importance, for instance, when analyzing the efficiency of different sampling designs and when estimating harvesting potential.
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.