Scottish Forestry Uses Bluesky Aerial Photomaps to Monitor Tree Health During Lockdown


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Leicestershire, UK, 27 May 2021 – Scottish Forestry, the government agency responsible for forestry policy, support and regulations in Scotland, is using specially commissioned aerial photography to help identify trees in distress. Trees are facing an increased threat due to pests, disease and climate change, and, as a result of social distancing regulations, Scottish Forestry was unable to undertake its usual helicopter inspections. To maintain its survey programme and help keep the forests flourishing, experienced foresters undertook desk-based studies using the latest, high-resolution aerial photography from Bluesky.

 “Our usual process for tree health inspections is three highly trained and experienced foresters, in a helicopter spotting a study area and taking geotagged photographs of any trees that may require further investigation,” commented Patrick Robertson, Tree Health Planning and Contingency Manager at Scottish Forestry. “However, at the height of the COVID lockdown this just wasn’t possible so we looked at what tools we already had and how these could be applied.

 “The aerial photography from Bluesky allowed us to identify individual trees and groups of trees that were displaying signs of distress and therefore required additional investigation. As the data is geographically accurate we can then locate the sites and schedule the onward workflows including obtaining access permissions, undertaking risk assessments for site visits and getting the right equipment and the right people at the right place.” 

 Scottish Forestry awarded Bluesky a contract to capture almost 1,400 square kilometres of standard (RGB) aerial imagery together with colour infrared (CIR) photography following a competitive tender process. The data was captured during the summer of 2020 and delivered to Scottish Forestry ready for use in a range of desktop mapping and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software. The Bluesky photography is intended to support a number of applications within Scottish Forestry whilst CIR offers a unique tool to assist with the assessment of the health and state of vegetation. It can also help identify areas of healthy vegetation from non-vegetated areas.

 “This project was a reaction to extenuating circumstances however, what it has done is shown that aerial photography is an effective and efficient way of studying tree health over large areas,” concluded Robertson. “As a proof of concept this will be extremely valuable as we continue to evolve the way we monitor protect our forest assets.”

 About Bluesky

 Bluesky International is the leading aerial survey and geographic data company in the UK producing and maintaining seamless digital aerial photography and height data on a national scale in both Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Bluesky also undertakes bespoke surveys, including LiDAR, for a range of public and private sector clients.

 Bluesky International operates a range of aircraft and sensors including three Ultracam Eagle Mark 3s, two CityMappers which allow the simultaneous collection of vertical and oblique imagery as well as LiDAR data, and a Galaxy LiDAR which is mounted with a thermal sensor and survey grade camera. These systems put Bluesky International in the enviable position of being able to provide customers with unique and cost-effective geospatial solutions.

 As well as being an established and respected aerial survey company Bluesky International is also highly innovative and continually strives to develop new products and services by embracing new technology and methods. This has resulted in the development of some unique products such as the National Tree Map (NTM).

 These datasets underpin long term contracts with local and central governments and many major blue-chip companies from a range of market sectors including financial services, utilities, telecoms, web portals, construction and environment.  Bluesky International has offices in the UK, US, Republic of Ireland and a dedicated production centre in India.  

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