Guest post by Emily Folk
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, are a growing investment for both business and recreational purposes. They help different industries with maintenance, monitoring and data collection. The forestry sector is now seeing the benefits, as well. A forestry drone helps with aerial imagery, managing forest fires, tracking pests and planning.
Challenges of Forestry
The forestry industry is vast — it spans across the continents, with workers all over the world. Some of the processes and responsibilities can be time-consuming and tedious, like developing management plans for highly dense areas.
Management plans are just one area where drones help — they provide a visual for everything a forestry worker needs. Forests, fields and wetlands can span dozens of miles. Monitoring all these acres can be impossible on foot.
The need for a solution becomes especially critical during emergencies. Workers don’t have time to wait for help with forest fires or search-and-rescue missions. Additionally, helicopters are costly and can take a while to get into action. Drones, as an alternative, can be a helpful and sometimes lifesaving solution.
How Drones Help
Over the years, technology has helped forestry in many ways. Whether it’s faster transportation or improved forest railways, it’s always been a guiding factor. Drones are now providing workers with new ways to efficiently handle their responsibilities.
Since UAVs provide aerial imagery and videos, forestry workers get a better visual of the entire forest or landscape they are working with. This broadened view leads to several benefits — the first being better management plans and assessments.
A forest management plan focuses on the goals landowners and forestry workers have. To develop this plan properly, they must gather assessments about the acreage, boundaries, tree conditions, biodiversity and overall land conditions. This task is tedious and could take weeks on foot. Drones shorten the process and provide information efficiently.
Drones make mapping, 3D visuals, photographic and video-graphic insight, and data analytics possible for plans and management. A forestry drone will come in handy, too, after storms or natural disasters. When a worker needs to clear away land, a UAV provides helpful insight into the best ways to remove debris.
In terms of biodiversity, foresty workers aim to find the best ways to harvest without disturbing wildlife and plants around the trees. Drones help with tracking animal behaviors and patterns. That way, workers can operate around them.
Additionally, however, invasive plant and animal species can be detrimental to the forest, plants and animals. Drones can track these species’ patterns so forestry workers can take the proper actions to deter them.
Just as drones optimize planning and management, they can also be lifesaving in certain instances. Forest fires can be deadly. There have been almost 20,000 wildfires already in the first five months of 2020 alone. They can burn hundreds of thousands of acres, destroying everything in their path.
Forestry workers want to find the source of the fire quickly and put it out as soon as possible. Manual tracking on foot or aerial tracking with helicopters is too long of a process — flames spread much faster than the time it takes to locate them. With drones, though, workers can cut down significantly on that time. They can find the source of the fire, use geolocations to pinpoint it, and send the proper emergency and fire services to put it out.
The same concept applies to search and rescue. With high-quality cameras, drones cover more ground in a shorter period. Looking for individuals takes less time — which could be the difference between life and death.
The Future of Forestry
Drones solve many of the challenges forestry workers face. These UAVs optimize management, protect wildlife and plants, and can save lives in dire circumstances. They also provide the key to the future of forestry.
Optimizing processes is an important step for a job that covers such large plots of land. The future will hold more technology that aids forestry responsibilities. Drones are the gateway to that path.
Emily is a green tech writer who covers topics in renewable energy and sustainable design. You can read more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks.