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3D Forest Mapping Using A Low-Cost UAV Laser Scanning System: Investigation and Comparison

State Key Laboratory of Information Engineering in Surveying, Mapping and Remote Sensing, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430079, China
Co-Innovation Center for Sustainable Forestry in Southern China, Nanjing Forestry University, 159 Longpan Road, Nanjing 210037, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(6), 717;
Received: 21 February 2019 / Revised: 16 March 2019 / Accepted: 22 March 2019 / Published: 25 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Forest Remote Sensing)
PDF [7866 KB, uploaded 28 March 2019]


Automatic 3D forest mapping and individual tree characteristics estimation are essential for forest management and ecosystem maintenance. The low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) laser scanning (ULS) is a newly developed tool for cost-effectively collecting 3D information and attempts to use it for 3D forest mapping have been made, due to its capability to provide 3D information with a lower cost and higher flexibility than the standard ULS and airborne laser scanning (ALS). As the direct georeferenced point clouds may suffer from distortion caused by the poor performance of a low-cost inertial measurement unit (IMU), and 3D forest mapping using low-cost ULS poses a great challenge. Therefore, this paper utilized global navigation satellite system (GNSS) and IMU aided Structure-from-Motion (SfM) for trajectory estimation, and, hence, overcomes the poor performance of low-cost IMUs. The accuracy of the low-cost ULS point clouds was compared with the ground truth data collected by a commercial ULS system. Furthermore, the effectiveness of individual trees segmentation and tree characteristics estimation derived from the low-cost ULS point clouds were accessed. Experiments were undertaken in Dongtai forest farm, Yancheng City, Jiangsu Province, China. The results showed that the low-cost ULS achieved good point clouds quality from visual inspection and comparable individual tree segmentation results (P = 0.87, r = 0.84, F = 0.85) with the commercial system. Individual tree height estimation performed well (coefficient of determination (R2) = 0.998, root-mean-square error (RMSE) = 0.323 m) using the low-cost ULS. As for individual tree crown diameter estimation, low-cost ULS achieved good results (R2 = 0.806, RMSE = 0.195 m) after eliminating outliers. In general, such results illustrated the high potential of the low-cost ULS in 3D forest mapping, even though 3D forest mapping using the low-cost ULS requires further research. View Full-Text
Keywords: 3D forest mapping; low-cost; unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV); laser scanning 3D forest mapping; low-cost; unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV); laser scanning

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Li, J.; Yang, B.; Cong, Y.; Cao, L.; Fu, X.; Dong, Z. 3D Forest Mapping Using A Low-Cost UAV Laser Scanning System: Investigation and Comparison. Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 717.

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