Today will mark roughly the third week of me joining the Ecosynth project (technically I started 8/16/2012). It has been an exciting and eventful three weeks to experience, and I couldn't be happier working on the project.
I'd like to share a little bit of what I have been doing here so far.
Yep. That's a crane boom lift with two humans, a laptop, and a rather costly LIDAR scanner roughly 100 feet in the air. The two intrepid fellows up top are Jonathan Dandois and myself. Needless to say, this has been the highlight of my time here so far.
What exactly were we doing up there on that lift?
There is the very cool and expensive LIDAR scanner hanging off the platform of our lift. It was securely atached to a tripod, which was in turn was securely tied down to our platform (you can spot some of the yellow straps on the bottom of the platform).
We were using the LIDAR scanner to scan the tree canopies of the Herbert Run Forest. Terrestial LIDAR scans can provide an incredibly detailed amount of information that you can't get with aerial LIDAR. The only problem is getting the scanner to be slightly above the tree canopy. So we rented a boom lift.
If you are unfamiliar with what LIDAR is, it stands for Light Detection and Ranging. Basically a pulse of light is emitted from the scanner, strikes an object, and a sensor from the scanner picks up the reflection from the pulse striking the object. This all occurs in a fraction of a second. Such a scanning technique provides an incredible amount of detail; the data we have collected reveals the forest canopy, subcanopy, and ground with remarkable clarity.
One of the challenges being ~100 feet in the air on a tiny little platform is movement. Since we are using rapid pulses of light to scan a surrounding region, you can imagine any movement of the scanner will cause error in the scan (instead of hitting the tip of the leaf, the light now strikes the tree trunk). The wind at that height did make the platform rock back and forth. It's just one of the many challenges of field work!
The LIDAR scanner we used does come with an actual camera that takes photographs of the areas it scans. It provides an awesome view of the tree canopy that us ground-dwelling humans rarely get to see. Being up there was incredible, and really provides a unique perspective of the forest.
Despite the look on my face, I was having the time of my life.