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Mar 03 2011

New Field Equipment for 3D Forestry

Our new forestry mapping equipment is going to make collecting 3D tree and canopy data a lot easier!

We recently acquired a Trimble GeoXT GPS and TruPulse 360B laser range-finder for use in our forestry field data collection work.  The GeoXT is a high grade mobile-mapping, mobile GIS, GPS unit that offers sub-meter accuracy after post-processing in the lab. 

By itself this would allow us to collect sub-meter (0.5m – 0.7m) accurate positions of tree trunks or other features on the ground.  The TruPulse is used for measuring distances and heights using a built in laser and inclinometer that automatically does all that pesky math that would be needed when using an analog clinometer.  The 360B model has built in Bluetooth communication, which means that with a little configuration in the lab the unit can wirelessly beam positional and height data to the GeoXT.

This combo is used for ‘offset-mapping’ where the user stands in one location with both GPS and laser in hand and by using the laser is able to map to the GPS the XYZ position of other objects that are not nearby (typically less than 200m based on the power of the laser).  For us, this means I can map the position of tree tops in 3D space and automatically record the tree height to the mapping GPS with relative ease and greater precision than when using paper and pencil field notes.  This type of data collection is necessary for the calibration and validation of Ecosynth 3D point clouds, http://ecotope.org/ecosynth/methods/ecology/.

We will roll out this tech in the field in the coming few weeks as we move into the growing season, but in the mean time my initial results suggest that this will be a high-quality approach for mapping the position of tree crowns, a vital and challenging task.

The photo below doesn’t look like much, but it shows a sample of some of this 3D data.  This is an oblique shot looking through a 3D point cloud of the Knoll at UMBC.  The yellow area at the bottom is a digital terrain model of the land underneath the canopy; the blue points are the Ecosynth 3D point cloud of the site; and the red points are 3D points of tree tops and tree base mapped using the GPS  / laser combination.  This screen capture doesn’t do it justice, but trust me when I say that it looks good in 3D!

Hey Evan, are you sure you don’t want to come back to continue the forestry work?

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