In the fall of 2015, FPInnovations continued an initiative to investigate uses of low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology in the Canadian forest sector (Evans 2016a, 2016b, 2016c). Applications for UAVs in the forest industry continue to evolve as the technology becomes more advanced, and as forestry professionals become aware of their potential uses.
At Weyerhaeuser’s operation in Edson, Alberta, regeneration survey data are commonly collected through ocular estimates made from manned aircraft (usually a helicopter). Remote areas in the Forest Management Agreement that have poor road access can be quickly accessed by manned aircraft and can save hours of travel time for surveyors who can potentially cover many blocks during the same flight. For areas that have good road access, are closer to the mill, and require a crew in the area for other reasons, it was proposed that a low-cost UAV might be a good substitute for a helicopter and could potentially lower overall survey costs while providing other useful data. The rationale behind using a low-cost UAV is that it could be used at a departmental level without incurring a large capital cost.