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Tracking bark beetle infestations with multispectral data

Due to warming climates, an insect known as the bark beetle is overpopulating the Northern Hemisphere. It kills pine and spruce trees and is overwhelming scientists and forestry workers across North America, Europe and Siberia. The beetle has killed more than 85,000 mi2 (220,000 km2) of forest in the western US, 65,000 square miles (168,000 km2) in British Columbia, and has all but decimated the entire population of lowland spruce trees in Switzerland.

The Czech Republic is another European country affected, and a company there called práva informačních technologií města Plzně is turning to WingtraOne to help them reduce the outbreak.

Five years ago it wasn’t as bad as it is now with these bugs. Nowadays it’s a big problem, and it’s worse and worse every year.

Ondřej Bouček
Drone specialist at Sitmp

Sitmp, based in Pilsen, Czech republic, provides modern tech services to lift society. They tried to run multirotor surveys over the forest, but the coverage was too low. They also tried with a fixed-wing solution, but they said the take-off and landing area in the forest was too small.

They found success with WingtraOne and with its MicaSense RedEdge-MX payload over a couple of 40-50 ha (100-120 ac) patches of forest on the outskirts of the city every two weeks to collect multispectral data. This data reveals damage that was not visible to the naked eye before, and it helps foresters identify where the beetles are attacking.

Since the beetle kills trees by destroying the inner bark of the tree, this cuts off the water supply to leaves. It’s the early stages of these drying leaves that show up as a red color on the multispectral maps provided by WingtraOne. Forest rangers can go in and cut these precise trees before the beetles jump to the neighbouring ones.

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