UNE and Armidale Regional Council have collaborated to take advantage of a visit by an aerial survey company carrying lidar technology.
According to Council Project Engineer Arun Gautam, both organisations were anticipating the need to collect data using a lidar flight.
“When it was discovered that the NM Group’s helicopter would be in the area, UNE PhD student Arjan Wilkie saw the potential and developed a plan to ensure that local projects could be completed,” Mr Gautam said. “The NM Group’s lidar flight was able to gather data at the UNE SMARTfarm, at the UNE Campus and around Puddledock Dam for Armidale Regional Council.”
Partners in the project are UNE’s School of Environmental and Rural Science, Precision Agriculture Research Group at UNE, UNE Facilities and Management Services, and Armidale Regional Council. The project has been coordinated by Mr Arjan Wilkie, an Armidale resident and current-PhD student at UNE in the school of ERS and a member of PARG, studying high-resolution carbon accounting.
Mr Wilkie was working on a short-term contract at Armidale Regional Council recently and was well placed to make the connections needed to realise this project for the benefit of all parties.
“It’s rare to have the chance to help with a project that provides a win-win-win for the community, so I was happy to help bring the people together to make it happen,” he said.
The helicopter was on its way from Brisbane to Tasmania for a powerline maintenance project and the company offered its services en-route at a rate that was free of the usual mobilisation and ferrying costs, which is a significant saving. Mr Wilkie recognised the potential that by combining the three project areas there would be additional savings for all three projects, highlighting the value of working together.
The flight consists of a crewed helicopter mounted with a specialised high-resolution lidar and camera sensor package that is able to map the ground and tree canopy accurately, to within a few centimetres.
This lidar + aerial photo will provide a baseline dataset for the ongoing monitoring and maintenance of the UNE rural properties and Campus; and will be used for current research on carbon sequestration, riparian management and fauna movement. Council is using the data for the consequence assessment of a potential Puddledock Dam break. Puddledock Dam, a supplementary water supply dam, is on Puddledock Creek about 14km north of Armidale.
UNE’s Professor David Lamb said that the 2,900 Ha university SMART Farm is an ideal location to deploy and test the lidar technology.
“We understand the landscape very well, and with the large amounts of data already generated through existing and past projects, there is a lot of data about the landscape and vegetation that can be brought to bear to calibrate the lidar data,” said Professor Lamb. “The generated data will be an invaluable part of the “SMART Farm ’17” campaign, planned for mid next year, that will involve researchers from all around Australia, testing new sensors and landscape evaluations protocols here in our region.”
Associate Professor Karl Vernes, who leads the Life, Earth and Environment Research Theme at UNE, got behind the project because of the huge potential the dataset represents for students and researchers working in the SMART Farm landscape.
“We have diverse research ranging from the response of riparian vegetation to de-stocking, to understanding how mammal numbers relate to landscape structure and vegetation condition. All current and future projects like these will benefit from the new data. When it comes to teaching, UNE students will learn from analysing state-of-the-art remotely sensed data for a landscape they can visit within minutes of the campus.”
Jeff Kemp Project Manager, UNE Facilities and Maintenance Services (FMS) explained that FMS is actively involved in campus master planning and will use the lidar and imagery as a baseline data set in a 3D modelling environment to assist with all future UNE Campus planning and development.
Shane Brunker, Technical Director at the NM Group said, “We’re very pleased to assist UNE and Armidale Regional Council manage their infrastructure and environment with our 3D mapping technology. We look forward to collaborating again in the future on another successful project.”