Pulp and Paper Canada

Features Environment & Sustainability Forestry
UAVs to help build steep-slope resource roads

January 27, 2016  By FPInnovations

In coastal British Columbia, 56 per cent of harvestable timber volume is located on slopes greater than 35 per cent, and forest companies are increasingly turning to this challenging source of fibre as the more easily accessed timber near valley bottoms is exhausted. As part of its Steep Slopes Initiative, FPInnovations is looking for new approaches and technologies to improve timber harvesting safety and efficiency on steep slopes while reducing environmental impacts.

To improve accessibility to this resource, FPInnovations’ Resource Roads group recently initiated a project aimed at developing practices for steep road design and construction. As part of this project, the group filmed several logging trucks navigating steep switchbacks and road sections from directly overhead using FPInnovations’ DJI Inspire 1 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The footage was synchronized with cameras attached to the logging truck which looked backwards from the truck cab at the trailer, and from the rear trailer tires looking forward towards the truck cab. Documenting typical travel paths and actual off-tracking of vehicles will help designers improve geometric designs for various truck configurations and terrain conditions. True travel paths used by different drivers can be compared with design models and help improve and calibrate these predictive models, thus improving overall safety.


FPInnovations also used the UAV to survey several sections of steep road by flying it in a grid pattern at a constant elevation and taking photos at regular intervals with the camera angled straight down. The data were then used to create a 3D point cloud similar to what could be obtained from LiDAR data.

This form of surveying takes considerably less time than conventional surveying, and has a broad range of applications such as auditing road construction progress in real time, conducting as-built surveys, or surveying felled road right-of-ways before road construction occurs. This information can help land managers update plans or identify previously undiscovered environmental concerns.

This project showcases some of the interesting technology FPInnovations is using, and innovative applications for using UAVs in forest operations.

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