Frank Varga, General Manager of the Burns Lake Community Forest holds one of the drones the organization uses for mapping out forest areas. (Blair McBride photo)

Seeing more, seeing faster with Comfor drone

The Burns Lake Community Forest (BLCF)’s use of drone technology has significantly enhanced its ability to map out and see what’s in the forests.

The community forest has been using its DJI Phantom 4 drone, which costs about $3,500 retail since 2014 for assessments after harvesting, as Frank Varga, BLCF General Manager told Lakes District News.

“We will do an assessment post-harvest to see road location, built vs proposed, site deg, wildfire tree retention area [to look for] blowdown, composition, number of burn piles, etc,” he said.

The low-flying unit is also used for determining site plan values and auditing harvest operations and landscapes.

All of its benefits were brought together when the BLCF mapped out Boer Mountain as part of the Kager Recreation Area Polygon project aimed at the interests of mountain bikers.

READ MORE: Managing forests with mountain bikers in mind

“Boer mountain was the first time Burns Lake Community Forest used the drone for full phase operational works, from pre-planning and block delineation to post-harvest assessment.”

The faster viewing capabilities of drones are a major time saver, as Varga explained.

“This technology can effectively [scope out] an area 10 hectares in size and provide concrete data sets for assessment or more detailed field review in 10-15 minutes. It pays for itself very quickly. With the three batteries, we can effectively review 60-80 ha in one session, and with the car charger, we can do close to 200 ha in a day.”

To do the same work with a traditional crew on the ground using a truck, quad and GPS mapping, the BLCF would have to pay $750-$1,000 per day.

It also saves time when coupled with satellite imagery, which is updated every two to four years.

“[But the drone] allows us to have updates within six months of operations.”

The view of what’s happening in the forests becomes even sharper when the drone images are supplemented with Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) technology that shoots lasers to measure distances, build up three-dimensional models of the landscape and determine tree species.

The Chinook Community Forest used Lidar mapping for a two-year project, at a cost of about $500,000.

LOOK BACK: Chinook Comfor to resume meetings in May

Chinook hasn’t used drones yet, but plans to in the future, said manager Ken Nielsen.

Despite the bells and whistles of the drone, Varga pointed out that it can’t completely replace some of the work by foresters on the ground, such as with silviculture surveys.

“[The drone] cannot see key forest health issues. Health issues such as hard pine rust [fungus], this must be surveyed in the traditional sense by crews on the ground.”

Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
Send Blair an email
Like Lakes District News on Facebook

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Four air ambulance flights out of Terrace delayed or cancelled

Pandemic precautions caused nighttime closure of service station providing weather data to pilots

Skeena Resources, Tahltan prez excited by purchase of Eskay Creek

Skeena gets full control of mine, Barrick gets 12 per cent of Skeena and a one per cent royalty

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Overall house sales drop in the northwest

COVID-19 pandemic slowed market activity

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

‘Trauma equals addiction’ – why some seek solace in illicit substances

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Most Read