Deep, dark forests can be both scary and enchanting. And for those who work in them, they provide tough working conditions. With a view from the sky, however, conditions change in an instant, which forestry company Norrskog experienced when it had to survey a storm-struck forest in the heart of Sweden.
In the Berg municipality, located in the heart of northern Sweden, the forest stretches as far as the eye can see. It is deep, dark and covered in thick layers of snow during the dark months of the year, with moose, wolves and other wild animals lurking in the depths.
In the winter of 2013, a severe storm rolled over the mountains to the west and hit the Berg area, striking the landscape with brutal force. It is estimated that 100 000 m3 of trees were blown over in this area alone.
To forestry company Norrskog, the owner of the damaged forest, this was a tough blow. Norrskog’s insurance company Trygg Hansa immediately called for a survey of the storm- struck area to take stock of the damage. The area that needed surveying was over 10 000 hectares, and the Smartplanes SmartOne drone was chosen for the job. When Norrskog’s Forest manager Jerker Bylander saw the results of the mapping done by the drone, he was astonished.
“It’s like I’m sitting here in the office and hovering above the treetops,” says Bylander. “With the touch of a button I can zoom in on individual trees to inspect windfalls, insect infestation or stands in need of thinning or clearing, then I zoom out again and I hover, searching for storm damage.”
Leaving satellite imagery and traditional aerial photos behind
In front of him, Bylander has a photo mosaic taken on Norrskog forest with the SmartOne drone. Each image in the mosaic covers about 100 hectares. Individual trees, small roads, streams, rocks – everything appears quite clearly.
“With my new ‘eagle eye’ I can even see moose, image quality is incredible. This imagery is a division apart,” says Bylander.
With the overview and detail brought by the drone, it is easy for Bylander and his colleagues at Norrskog to take action in the field. Previously, he would have used satellite imagery or photos from traditional aerial photography to take stock of the damages. And while that may be a bit cheaper, it simply doesn’t get the job done in the same way.
“The resolution of satellite imagery is not good; even for the trained forest manager it can be hard to discern what’s what in the mess of colours you see on the screen,” explains Bylander, and continues: “The price per hectare may be higher with drones in large areas compared to conventional aerial photography, but since the quality is so outstandingly good we can save a lot of time planning our actions and achieve a greater accuracy directly on the drawing board with drone images.”
A Forest manager’s ultimate dream
With drones, Bylander is provided with the ultimate dream of any Forest manager: accurate, high-resolution maps at a reasonable cost. He believes drone technology will change the forestry business in the future.
“This type of map image will stimulate more active forest management. When you’ve acquired forest land, drones provide an extremely detailed photo mosaic with a much better overview of the property – you can zoom in and see the small details, identify species and any need for action,” says Bylander.
The silver lining here, is that Bylander and others in his line of work do not have to wait for the future to arrive. The technology is already here, changing the forestry business around the world every day.