Technical Updates

Friday, 22 June 2018
Drone Technology Increasing Safety and Efficiency in Forest Management

Domtar Drone (© Domtar)© Domtar

June 2018

You’ve probably seen kids, hobbyists and amateur photographers using drone technology for fun, but drone solutions have a great deal more potential than an afternoon’s worth of entertainment.

Domtar is a leading producer of pulp, paper and personal care products and an FSC certificate holder that is now harnessing the power of drone technology to complete critical forestry tasks.

Domtar recently started using drones at their FSC-certified mills in Ashdown, Arkansas and Windsor, Quebec. At the Windsor mill drones monitor forest health and assist with nutrient assessments, and calculate the volume of wood chip piles. Drones will soon play an even more critical role at Windsor as new dangers emerge.

The impact of drones has been tremendous, so Domtar is excited to share best practices with others. The following are three ways drone solutions are changing forestry.

    1. Drone Solutions Monitor Forest Health
    Domtar’s Ashdown Mill began using drones 2016. Today, Domtar use two drones to monitor local forests for diseased trees or invasive species. The ips beetle, also known as the engraver beetle, is a common pest that can burrow under bark and tunnel through pine and spruce trees, causing severe damage. Using drone solutions, foresters can quickly check for infestations. What used to take half a day is now accomplished in just 20 minutes. Flying above the forest canopy, drones can easily spot disease and infestations.

    2. Drone Solutions Measure Wood Chip Piles
    Drones also improve the speed and accuracy of inventory calculations at Ashdown Mill. Their mills produce massive wood chip piles, which eventually become paper or a range of personal care products. Previously, survey crews required half a day or longer to measure chip piles for volume. Now, drones take photos of the piles, and those photos are downloaded to a computer and analyzed. The process takes just 30 minutes and is exceptionally accurate.

    3. Drone Solutions Monitor Growth and Harvests
    Seedling survival is critical to ensuring the next generation of trees creates a healthy ecosystem. In the past, it took foresters several hours to walk a forest floor to check on recently planted trees and record data about survival rates and coverage. Today, drone solutions capture images that the mill’s forestry team can use to make those same observations within minutes. Drones can also monitor harvests to ensure the use of responsible forestry techniques. Foresters can also use drones to monitor new crops and ensure a higher survival rate for seedlings.

Commercial drone solutions offer tremendous value to Domtar’s business. Drones are relatively inexpensive, and they save time. They can also improve accuracy, while safeguarding staff from some of the dangers inherent in forestry.

Learn more about Domtar’s use of drone technology and view footage of the drones in action.