There are many remote sensing approaches to vegetation management, including high-resolution photographs and lidar data. Let’s look at some attributes and advantages of each of these methods and explore how to put them to best use!
High Spatial Resolution Photography
This is probably the most well-known form of remote sensing for many folks. A satellite, aircraft or drone flies a utility line and takes very high-resolution imagery of assets and vegetation. The level of spatial detail is impressive, and the beauty of the photograph is almost artistic. These images are useful in vegetation management because they can identify tree encroachment into a right-of-way and tree height can be calculated with a scalable reference. The level of detail, combined with knowledge of local vegetation species, can also be used to execute supervised classifications for land cover analysis.
Lidar – Light Detection and Ranging
We’ve all heard of Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging), and lidar has also become a commonly heard term these days. Lidar and radar are both active sensors, meaning they generate a signal that bounces off a target, returns to the scanner, and produces an image. Lidar uses laser pulses in the ultraviolet, visible and near infrared bands of the electromagnetic spectrum to generate point clouds of its targets, which creates high-resolution 3D images. This application is beneficial for utilities because it can create granular detailed representations of assets in the field like poles, structures and substations, and it can show tree height and canopy density of vegetation that may be encroaching into a utility right of way. If ground penetrating radar is used, underground utilities can also be detected.
How Can These Methods be Applied Most Efficiently?
Both lidar and High-Resolution Imagery provide near-granular level optical detail of vegetation encroachment in utility rights-of-way. While it is important to identify a specific tree growing in a right-of-way, that does not address vegetation management comprehensively. Utilities can have hundreds to thousands of miles of transmission and rural distribution lines, and lidar and high-resolution imagery costs add up quickly, depending on the size of the target area and frequency of data acquisition. What if there are 10 trees identified as encroachers in a right-of-way? Or 100 trees? Or 1,000 trees in rights of way, spread out over hundreds of miles? How do you prioritize their trimming or removal? What if the service territory land cover is mostly grassland, which ignites much more easily than trees?
Raster Report uses satellite data for analysis on large spatial scales to identify areas of increased combustion probability, aka high fire danger areas. To supplement that, we identify specific assets within these fire danger areas to prioritize inspections based on real data, and not ad-hoc inspections. This deliverable then gives utilities the options to make use of lidar or high spatial resolution imagery, or to deploy ground crews to inspect the identified areas of fire danger. By making vegetation management and asset inspection processes more streamlined, utilities are then able to reduce O&M costs, which keeps customers safer and happier! To see how the Raster Report team can help you, please reach out to us anytime!