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Lidar Drone system maps height of rainforest for the first time

[Press realease IRD/CEBA/CIRAD/L’Avion Jaune/Carbomap]

The first canopy height model of the Amazon rainforest was completed using data from the first true UAV-ready LiDAR system (called YellowScan®) in the framework of the CANOPOR project financed by the Labex CEBA. This approach is applied in the tropics for the first time.
This result was developed through collaboration between Carbomap, a UK forest mapping company, L’Avion Jaune S.A.R.L and IRD researchers members of the CEBA.

The CANOPOR project aims at mapping the canopy of Paracou experimental forest area in French Guiana during two seasons. It is coordinated by Grégoire Vincent and Daniel Sabatier, researchers at the IRD and members of the  CEBA. The project received funding by the Labex CEBA through its annual call for proposals in 2013. The techniques that are used are a comination of high-density laser scanner and optical and infrared imaging systems with a resolution of 7 cm.

The data needed to complete the canopy height model were collected by the researchers of the CEBA in the CANOPOR project by mounting the YellowScan® system (all-in-one ultra-light laser scanner intended for UAVs and other ultra-light aircrafts) on a manned helicopter. The helicopter then replicated the flight parameters of a typical UAV drone, and provided proof of concept for this approach.

Carbomap used part of this data to generate this canopy heigh model. More precisely, Carbomap used a processing chain to extract the terrain level from the very high density point cloud.

Modele de hauteur de canopee de la foret tropicale a partir du premier systeme Lidar pour dronesMap showing the first canopy height model of the tropical forest
with Lidar drone system – forest area of Paracou, French Guiana


The particular challenge of this project was the high density of the forest itself, which limited the ease of identifying the ground. To do this, Carbomap developed an algorithm that is capable of retrieving the few points which correspond to the ground, to generate a bare earth digital terrain model (DTM). Once this was extracted, the canopy height model was determined from the height of the trees above the ground.

The next stages in Carbomap’s forest mapping workflow are the extraction of other forest metrics from the data. Examples of this are the amount of aboveground biomass or Carbon stored within the forest area, and if multiple datasets over time are available, then the change in forest cover, from which changes in forest carbon, can also be measured.

This international collaboration, between the Edinburgh-based Carbomap and the French organisations L’Avion Jaune S.A.R.L and IRD researchers members of the CEBA, demonstrates the international appeal for the further development of such forest mapping approaches. The Lidar Drone approach is a highly cost-effective system that is especially appropriate for developing countries.


Download the press release: Tropical forest height press release



Prof Iain Woodhouse
Carbomap Ltd.

Dr. Tristan Allouis
L’Avion Jaune S.A.R.L.


More information on the partners:

Carbomap Ltd.: http://www.carbomap.com/
L’Avion Jaune S.A.R.L: http://yellowscan.lavionjaune.com/
IRD: http://en.ird.fr/
CEBA: http://www.labex-ceba.fr/en
CIRAD: http://www.cirad.fr/en