Unmanned aerial system imagery and photogrammetric canopy height data in area-based estimation of forest variables

Sakari Tuominen (Corresponding Author), Andras Balazs, Heikki Saari, Ilkkka Pölönen, Janne Sarkeala, Risto Viitala

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


    In this paper we examine the feasibility of data from unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-borne aerial imagery in stand-level forest inventory. As airborne sensor platforms, UAVs offer advantages cost and flexibility over traditional manned aircraft in forest remote sensing applications in small areas, but they lack range and endurance in larger areas. On the other hand, advances in the processing of digital stereo photography make it possible to produce three-dimensional (3D) forest canopy data on the basis of images acquired using simple lightweight digital camera sensors. In this study, an aerial image orthomosaic and 3D photogrammetric canopy height data were derived from the images acquired by a UAV-borne camera sensor. Laser-based digital terrain model was applied for estimating ground elevation. Features extracted from orthoimages and 3D canopy height data were used to estimate forest variables of sample plots. K-nearest neighbor method was used in the estimation, and a genetic algorithm was applied for selecting an appropriate set of features for the estimation task. Among the selected features, 3D canopy features were given the greatest weight in the estimation supplemented by textural image features. Spectral aerial photograph features were given very low weight in the selected feature set. The accuracy of the forest estimates based on a combination of photogrammetric 3D data and orthoimagery from UAV-borne aerial imaging was at a similar level to those based on airborne laser scanning data and aerial imagery acquired using purpose-built aerial camera from the same study area.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1348
    Number of pages19
    JournalSilva Fennica
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • forest inventory
    • unmanned aerial system
    • UAV
    • aerial imagery
    • photogrammetric surface model
    • canopy height model


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