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Defined as “personal remote sensing”, small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) have been increasingly utilized for landscape mapping. This study tests a sUAS procedure of 3D tree surveying of a closed-canopy woodland on an earthen dam. Three DJI drones—Mavic Pro, Phantom 4 Pro, and M100/RedEdge-M assembly—were used to collect imagery in six missions in 2019–2020. A canopy height model was built from the sUAS-extracted point cloud and LiDAR bare earth surface. Treetops were delineated in a variable-sized local maxima filter, and tree crowns were outlined via inverted watershed segmentation. The outputs include a tree inventory that contains 238 to 284 trees (location, tree height, crown polygon), varying among missions. The comparative analysis revealed that the M100/RedEdge-M at a higher flight altitude achieved the best performance in tree height measurement (RMSE = 1 m). However, despite lower accuracy, the Phantom 4 Pro is recommended as an optimal drone for operational tree surveying because of its low cost and easy deployment. This study reveals that sUAS have good potential for operational deployment to assess tree overgrowth toward dam remediation solutions. With 3D imaging, sUAS remote sensing can be counted as a reliable, consumer-oriented tool for monitoring our ever-changing environment.

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APA Citation

Wang, C., Morgan, G., & Hodgson, M. E. (2021). SUAS for 3D Tree Surveying: Comparative experiments on a closed-canopy earthen dam. Forests, 12(6), 659.


© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/).

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