Comparison of backpack, handheld, under-canopy UAV, and above-canopy UAV laser scanning for field reference data collection in boreal forests

Eric Hyyppä*, Xiaowei Yu, Harri Kaartinen, Teemu Hakala, Antero Kukko, Mikko Vastaranta, Juha Hyyppä

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
139 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In this work, we compared six emerging mobile laser scanning (MLS) technologies for field reference data collection at the individual tree level in boreal forest conditions. The systems under study were an in-house developed AKHKA-R3 backpack laser scanner, a handheld Zeb-Horizon laser scanner, an under-canopy UAV (Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle) laser scanning system, and three above-canopy UAV laser scanning systems providing point clouds with varying point densities. To assess the performance of the methods for automated measurements of diameter at breast height (DBH), stem curve, tree height and stem volume, we utilized all of the six systems to collect point cloud data on two 32 m-by-32 m test sites classified as sparse (n = 42 trees) and obstructed (n = 43 trees). To analyze the data collected with the two ground-based MLS systems and the under-canopy UAV system, we used a workflow based on our recent work featuring simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology, a stem arc detection algorithm, and an iterative arc matching algorithm. This workflow enabled us to obtain accurate stem diameter estimates from the point cloud data despite a small but relevant time-dependent drift in the SLAM-corrected trajectory of the scanner. We found out that the ground-based MLS systems and the under-canopy UAV system could be used to measure the stem diameter (DBH) with a root mean square error (RMSE) of 2–8%, whereas the stem curve measurements had an RMSE of 2–15% that depended on the system and the measurement height. Furthermore, the backpack and handheld scanners could be employed for sufficiently accurate tree height measurements (RMSE = 2–10%) in order to estimate the stem volumes of individual trees with an RMSE of approximately 10%. A similar accuracy was obtained when combining stem curves estimated with the under-canopy UAV system and tree heights extracted with an above-canopy flying laser scanning unit. Importantly, the volume estimation error of these three MLS systems was found to be of the same level as the error corresponding to manual field measurements on the two test sites. To analyze point cloud data collected with the three above-canopy flying UAV systems, we used a random forest model trained on field reference data collected from nearby plots. Using the random forest model, we were able to estimate the DBH of individual trees with an RMSE of 10–20%, the tree height with an RMSE of 2–8%, and the stem volume with an RMSE of 20–50%. Our results indicate that ground-based and under-canopy MLS systems provide a promising approach for field reference data collection at the individual tree level, whereas the accuracy of above-canopy UAV laser scanning systems is not yet sufficient for predicting stem attributes of individual trees for field reference data with a high accuracy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3327
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalRemote Sensing
Volume12
Issue number20
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Above-canopy UAV laser scanning
  • Airborne laser scanning
  • Backpack laser scanning
  • Handheld laser scanning
  • Mobile laser scanning
  • Under-canopy UAV laser scanning

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