Traditionally, forest inventory has been based on data manually gathered from measured sample plots. Nowadays large forest areas are systematically scanned with airborne laser scanning devices in Finland. Both methods provide estimations but lack accuracy in estimating dimensions and mapping individual trees in the stand. In addition, field work is expensive.
Scanning done from an airplane or drone is unable to provide dimensional accuracy. A great deal of the tree trunk cannot be seen because of the canopy coverage. On the other hand, using stable terrestrial laser devices providing accurate measurements is too slow for this purpose. In order to utilize laser scanners with harvesting machines, it is necessary to find and develop new more accurate, faster and cheaper solutions.
Challenges in harvesting and estimating contract volumes
A harvesting operator has to select trees and decide the bucking visually with the help of rough bucking matrixes, often in difficult weather conditions. Before harvesting neither the forest owner nor the buyer know exactly what kind of timber will be harvested. Byers' bids are based on average estimates, without any indication of quality. In fact, the bucking decides how much log and pulp wood will be harvested from each stand, eventually determining the total income from wood sales.
Every year more than 60 million cubic meters of wood is sold in Finland, amounting to several billion euros. Significant benefits can be reached by digitalizing forest inventory. This requires new measuring technology and techniques. The forest owner does not necessarily know the value of his forest stand while making harvesting contracts, and may not visualize how different forest operations affect the forest or its economy.
The Finnish climate is hard on forest roads and it is often challenging to organize timber logistics. Damage on roads caused by heavy trucks can give a reason for disputes, or even hinder harvesting contracts because of a fear of such disputes.