ZEB1 Laser Scanner Helps NZ Scientists Measure Forest Stands

Sep 11, 2014 -- A handheld mobile laser scanner is helping researchers in New Zealand develop new working practices to characterise forest stands for management and research purposes. The team at Scion, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute (CRI), required a practical means for accurately locating and measuring individual trees on the ground. Using the ZEB1 they achieved significant advantages in speed of data capture, quality of the resulting point cloud and ease of use of the system. Scion purchased the ZEB1 from 3D Laser Mapping, following successful trials of the technology.

“Traditionally poor GPS under forest cover makes identifying trees a problem,” commented David Pont of Scion, an award winning scientist who specialises in world leading research to identify individual trees from remotely sensed aerial LiDAR. “The ability of the ZEB1 to provide the position for spatial locations using SLAM technology – specifically developed for mapping of areas with no GPS – was therefore of immediate interest to us.”

3D Laser Mapping successfully trialled the ZEB1, scanning small stands of trees close to the Scion campus in Rotorua, New Zealand. Within hours the team were back in the office viewing a highly detailed point cloud of the trees. Having subsequently purchased their own ZEB1, researchers at Scion are now carrying out further trials of the system including the scanning of inventory plots used to characterise forest stands for management purposes. The project team aims to extract tree diameters, locations and stem shapes from the ZEB1 point clouds rather than through the use of conventional manual measurements.

“Besides portability and ease of use the ZEB1 really shines in the speed of scanning,” continued Pont. “In the forest, trees are obscured by terrain, undergrowth and even other trees and conventional tripod units require multiple scans and registration of the point cloud to cover any significant area. The ZEB1 scans continuously as you move around the forest to provide a single, registered point cloud.”

“It is this ability to scan as you move that lifts the use of the ZEB1 from an academic exercise to something that demonstrates real potential for practical applications in forestry. In fact, the old adage ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’, is possibly, with the use of the ZEB1, no longer the case!”

Pont concluded, “The ZEB1 and its software are both remarkably easy to operate and from the first enquiry to the current phase of practical trials the support from 3D Laser Mapping has been excellent.”

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