Direct and automatic measurements of stem curve and volume using a high-resolution airborne laser scanning system

Eric Hyyppä, Antero Kukko, Harri Kaartinen, Xiaowei Yu, Jesse Muhojoki, Teemu Hakala, Juha Hyyppä

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Today, high-quality reference tree measurements, including the position, diameter, height and volume, are cumbersome and slow to carry out, but highly needed for forest inventories based on airborne laser scanning. Mobile laser scanning technologies hold the promise for collecting reference data for forest inventories with an extremely high efficiency. Perhaps, the most efficient approach for reference data collection would be to mount a high-resolution laser scanning system on board an airborne vehicle flying at a low altitude above the forest canopy since this would allow recording reference samples of individual trees with the speed of flight. To demonstrate the potential of this technology, we mounted an in-house developed HeliALS-DW laser scanning system on board a helicopter and collected point cloud data in a boreal forest on three test sites containing a total of 1469 trees. The obtained point clouds incorporated sufficiently many high-quality stem hits for estimating the stem curves and stem volumes of individual trees since the point clouds had a relatively high point density of 2200–3800 echoes/m2, and the scanner had been tilted by 15° from the nadir to increase the possibility of recording stem hits. To automatically estimate the diameters at breast height (DBH) and stem curves of individual trees, we used algorithms designed to tolerate moderate drifts in the trajectory of the laser scanner. Furthermore, the stem volumes of individual trees were computed by using the estimated stem curves and tree heights without any allometric models. Using the proposed methods, we were able to estimate the stem curves with a root-mean-square error (RMSE) of 1.7–2.6 cm (6–9%) while detecting 42–71% of the trees. The RMSE of stem volume estimates was 0.1–0.15 m3 (12–21%). We also showed that the tree detection rate could be improved up to 87–96% for trees with a DBH exceeding 20 cm if slightly larger average errors for the stem attributes were allowed. Our results pave the way for using high-resolution airborne laser scanning for field reference data collection by conducting direct measurements of tree stems with a high efficiency.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100050
Number of pages20
JournalScience of Remote Sensing
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • airborne laser scanning
  • mobile laser scanning
  • handheld laser scanning
  • individual tree detection
  • stem curve


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