VIDEO: Researchers rely on drones to survey aftermath of B.C. wildfires

UBC researchers are using aerial drones to study the historic 2017 wildfires in the province

Drones are the latest tools to be used in the study of the 2017 wildfires in B.C.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia are using the technology for various forestry applications, including fire burn assessment, said Nicholas Coops, Canada Research Chair in Remote Sensing and professor in forest resources management at UBC.

“Drones are a really exceptional technology that we’re starting to use more and more of: we can observe the effect and severity of the fire on each individual tree and use all this information to really understand the general patterns in which fires occur in B.C.,” Coop said.

Coops’ students have partnered with a B.C.-based drone company, FYBR, on the project and will be working on a range of sites in B.C. that address the needs of the forest industry, such as taking inventory of high-value timber on the coast and capturing the fires in the Interior.

Besides providing basic information like the how big the fire was, the images acquired from the drones can also be converted into detailed 3D models. The 3D models provide information on the centimetre scale — a level of detail that cannot be obtained with traditional fire survey methods, such as satellite imagery.

The project will also look at using drones for other forestry applications such as monitoring the regeneration of trees after harvesting, mapping tree locations, determining tree species and assessing tree health as well as mapping the forest floor.

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