Forestry industry professionals are always looking for innovative ways to improve operational strategies and gain deeper insights into their forests. After all, a poor logging yield can lead to serious supply-chain issues—like an increase in timber prices that sends new construction prices soaring.
As an industry-leading forestry management company, Rayonier uses drones to solve problems that foresters have endured for years. And the results are nothing less than impressive.
With over 90 years of experience, Rayonier oversees acreage across the United States and New Zealand—a total of 2.7 million acres as of December 31, 2020. Founded in 1926 as the Rainier Pulp and Paper Company in Shelton, Washington, Rayonier is now headquartered in Wildlight, Florida and serves as a responsible steward of the environment, with a sustainable yield of 11 million tons of timber annually.
Starting a New Drone Program
Before using drones, Rayioner relied on planes to capture aerial imagery for site analysis.
“Sending planes out to the property fast enough was a real struggle for us,” says Sara Bellchamber, Technical Analyst at Rayonier. “A big part of that was the summer haze. The planes are flying at a certain altitude and they just can’t capture great imagery because of poor visibility. A few of our field foresters were interested in drones because they can fly below that haze and provide immediate data, so we started a pilot program in 2017.”
The company turned to drones in an attempt to find a better method for capturing aerial imagery and storing data in its Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The 2017 pilot program proved a success, with the drones providing quicker turnaround, volumetric calculations, and better results in hazy conditions.
Bellchamber was then tasked with expanding the program across the U.S. But with 34 licensed drone pilots across all U.S. forestry locations, Bellchamber needed to find a software solution that could successfully capture data, build the orthophotos they need, and load those orthophotos into their GIS.
Growth and Software Needs
By the end of 2018, the number of licensed drone pilots working for Rayonier doubled. Despite the positive growth, the original fleet management software they used wasn’t proving sufficient. As administrator of the program, Sara Bellchamber recognized the need for a change—a new software vendor that understood the importance of collaboration, and would put Rayonier’s needs first. Measure stepped in to fill the role.
According to Bellchamber, working with Measure was an immediately positive experience. “The previous software company made us feel like we were just a number,” shares Bellchamber. “Measure gives us the freedom to adapt how the software works for us.”
The rapid growth of Rayonier’s drone program also required a flexible fleet management system they could disseminate across offices in the United States. Bellchamber stressed that the software needed to be intuitive for foresters in the field as well.
“We’re foresters first and drone pilots second, so our team prefers software that is straightforward to use,” relates Bellchamber. “Other software requires an in-depth knowledge of how to stitch imagery together to use it well. Measure Ground Control allows us to load data seamlessly.”
Forest Stand Management
For Rayonier, establishing accurate stand boundaries is critical to harvesting and site preparation. Summer haze and altitude limitations prevented planes from capturing accurate imagery, but Rayonier’s drone program solved the issue—allowing foresters to quickly get a detailed view of stands on any property. Alongside Measure, the data gathered using orthophotography helps them decide which site applications are necessary.
“Early on we worked hard to make sure the orthophotos came out properly,” says Bellchamber. “One of the struggles of stitching forest imagery together is matching up exact points, and matching trees together is challenging. Measure was great at listening to what we needed early in our relationship to make sure their software worked well for us.”
Measure’s 3D mapping software allows Rayonier to keep track of dirt and rock stockpiles that the company monetizes. As trucks add or remove dirt from stockpiles, they’re able to keep track of volume to ensure everything is done properly. Having the ability to audit assets with Measure’s software gives them the necessary data to make wiser business decisions.
Bellchamber says, “Using Measure’s 3D maps and the Pix4D engine behind it helps us estimate how much volume we have left in our stockpiles. With this data, we can determine if we have enough material for future projects.”
Working with Measure
With Measure, Bellchamber was able to propel Rayonier’s drone program forward and address the unique challenges the company was facing.
“Measure is responsive to every request that we have, and they’re always willing to help us with any issues so we can move forward smoothly,” Bellchamber shares. “It’s nice having regular check-ins to make sure the software is meeting our expectations. Measure takes time to ask questions about how we’re doing, which is very valuable to us.”
How Can Measure Help You Grow Your Drone Program?
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