LiDAR is a technique that uses lasers in a similar way to radar. Laser pulses are emitted and a sensor measures the amount of time it takes for the laser to be reflected. The variation in time allows us to model not only the ground, but also the vegetation canopy. Because lasers are so precise we can discriminate the reflection from a tree branch from a reflection off the ground. Using this information we can create a 3-dimensional model of the forest.
This is an example of how LiDAR can model the canopy of the forest.
LiDAR can measure the height, shape, and height to crown of trees. Allometric models can be applies to provide additional information about each tree. LiDAR's applications is forest use are very important as you can survey an entire forest using an aircraft, as opposed to the traditional method of using field crews to sub-sample the forest. LiDAR also has many important geomorphological applications. It can precisely measure the landscape to accurately discriminate floodplains, landslides, or even acheological sites.
We are working with researchers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia as well as with Terra Remote Sensing to develop an approach taht fuses hyperspectral data with LiDAR in order to precisely discriminate species. We are also looking at an approach to explore the relationship between tree structure and existing remotely sensed data estimates. This project will greatly improve our understanding of how existing assumptions effect current remote sensing models.