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Unlocking the Power of Viewshed Analysis for Better Forest Management

Blog post
Evgeny Lopatin

In an era of rapid technological advancements, the forestry industry is not far behind in leveraging digitalization for better management and sustainable growth. A recently published research article, "Unlocking Digitalization in Forest Operations with Viewshed Analysis to Improve GNSS Positioning Accuracy," offers exciting insights into the application of viewshed analysis for enhancing Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) positioning accuracy in forest operations.

GNSS devices play a crucial role in the precise positioning of forest harvesters. Photo: Eugene Lopatin / Luke

But what is viewshed analysis? In simple terms, viewshed analysis is a method used to determine the visible areas from a particular location, such as a forest harvester. By using this analysis, it's possible to understand how much of the surrounding area is visible or obstructed by the forest canopy.

GNSS devices play a crucial role in the precise positioning of forest harvesters, which is essential for autonomous harvesting and forwarding, ultimately making forest operations more efficient. However, the dense canopy cover often hinders GNSS performance, leading to inaccurate positioning and sub-optimal data collection. The need for more accurate positioning under the canopy is evident, as it can lead to increased efficiency, improved harvest quality, enhanced safety, reduced environmental impact, and better inventory management.

In the past, canopy cover percentage, a simple measure of how much of the sky is blocked by tree branches and leaves, was used to evaluate the impact of canopy cover on GNSS positioning accuracy. However, viewshed analysis offers a more accurate and detailed approach.

The study conducted by Lopatin et al. delved into the potential of viewshed analysis in predicting the positioning accuracy of forest harvesters under a mature spruce canopy cover. By analyzing the digital surface model (DSM), the researchers from Luke and Finnish Geospatial Research Institute discovered that canopy cover derived from viewshed analysis was a significant predictor of the dilution of precision and maximum deviation from the true position. In other words, viewshed analysis can provide more precise results than a simple canopy cover percentage for evaluating the impact of canopy cover on GNSS positioning accuracy.

The findings of this study have the potential to revolutionize the forestry industry, as it provides a clear path for the development of intelligent algorithms for precise positioning under the forest canopy. This could facilitate the implementation of digitalization in forest operations, giving rise to precision forestry, which ultimately benefits the environment, the economy, and society as a whole.

In a world that demands sustainable and efficient forest management, the breakthrough of viewshed analysis in improving GNSS positioning accuracy brings forth a promising future for the forestry sector. By incorporating these innovations, we can create a more resilient industry capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century.