LiDAR News: First Multispectral LiDAR Map of a Forest Understory #ILMF15

Just in time for this year’s ILMF in Denver Colorado LIDAR News have released their first issue of 2015, and Carbomap unveil their project on the very first spectral map of a forest understory using airborne Multispectral LiDAR.

This issue of LiDAR News focussesLiDAR_News_MultiSpectral_FrontCover on the birth of multispectral lidar as a mapping tool, with an article from Optech, who introduce their Titan Multispectral LiDAR instrument – the first such system to reach the commercial market. This is joined by an article by Carbomap, where we discuss a project we did with Riegl and Riegl USA who flew a LiDAR-combination with three different wavelength instruments in Virginia, US. Carbomap have developed a set of unique software tools specifically built for processing Multispectral LiDAR. With these tools we have generated the very first understory spectral map of a forest.  This opens an entirely new form of landscape mapping from aircraft, giving the potential for better mapping of fire risk, invasive species and forest health.

You are able to read the full article below, but you are also able to subscribe to their regular magazine too; which is really worthwhile if you are interested in keeping up to date in new technological developments, and to hear what others are doing within the LiDAR community.

There is also a PDF available which you can download here.

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Multispectral LiDAR on front cover of GIM International

Carbomap have featured on the front cover of this months GIM International!

2015 is definitely going to be the year of the multicoloured point cloud.

GIM_MultiSpectral_Article1Carbomap have been promoting the concept of Multispectral LiDAR for forest mapping since 2008 (and is the basis of our pending patent) but it is this year that we believe we will see it transfer to the mainstream.   GIM International magazine also recognise this, so they invited us to write a review article on the technology and its future; it was published in the February 2015 edition and you can read it below.  This technology will bring a whole new perspective on forest mapping, from understory spectral maps to improved fire risk mapping.

If you think that the article is interesting, and you want to read about other similar projects in the world of mapping then you can sign up to get the digital version of GIM International for free. You’ll also then be able to see the rest of the August magazine (with some other really interesting stories).

If you would like more information on multispectral lidar, or would like to trial this new technology over your area of interest, please contact our CEO directly: (+44 7887 551 724)

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Carbomap’s Carbon Emissions and Offsetting (2013-2014)

Carbomap recently calculated our carbon emissions for 2013-14, and we found that we had generated 1.65 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

mark_jpgIn the grand scheme of ‘corporate’ carbon emissions this is a tiny amount, however we feel that this doesn’t detract from the fact that we are having an adverse impact on our natural environment (however small). And by starting to monitor and manage this now we will be able to keep tabs on this as Carbomap grows. As an explicitly environmental company, we believe in running a carbon neutral business, we decided to offset the emissions that we were unable to avoid.

How did we calculated our carbon emissions?

Our carbon emissions were calculated in line with the most recent Defra guidelines, and carbon conversion factors, published in 2014. Our emissions are reported in CO2 equivalent, which is the global warming potential of different gases (such as Methane) measured in the reference term of Carbon Dioxide. It allows us to fully account for our environmental impact, and doesn’t limit us to only carbon when we fully understand that other gases have an impact on global warming too.

We determined our share of the electricity and heat usage for our office in Appleton Tower by using our proportion of floor area to the building as a whole and applying this to the energy usage for the building. These came to 0.88 tonnes of CO2 equivalent for electricity, and 0.36 tCO2e for the heating.

We also included our business travel for the year, which included a handful of short-haul flights, and two train journeys. These came to 0.35 tCO2e for flights, and 0.06 tCO2e for rail travel.

Currently Carbomap is a paperless office (though we recycle any waste that we do accumulate), so this hasn’t been included. Neither is water, as this is notoriously difficult to monitor where it isn’t metered.

How did we offset them?

Having done research into the organisations which offer carbon offsets for sale, we decided to go with The CarbonNeutral Company. Having had professional experience with them in the past we knew their reputation, and the standards to which their offsetting projects adhere to. Their portfolio includes a number of forestry projects, including REDD+ schemes in Cambodia, Madagascar, and Borneo (to name a few). Carbomap have long been proponents of REDD+ [Blog 1Blog 2Blog 3] as a mechanism for developing countries to maintain economic development, whilst minimising impact on the natural environment (unlike many existing developed nations), ensures the protection of key forest ecosystems, and provides financial compensation to the local communities and countries for doing so.


What is carbon offsetting and why has Carbomap chosen to do this?

Carbon offsetting is the process whereby carbon emissions are reduced in one place to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. By paying for the carbon offsets, it is designed to encourage emitters to reduce their carbon emissions. In the context of Carbomap, we create carbon emissions simply by having an office, using electricity, and travelling. However, we believe in an environmentally friendly future for the planet, and we voluntarily decide to offset these. Also, given that we work in the forestry sector, and hope to benefit and contribute to the development of schemes such as REDD+ we feel it is only appropriate that we feed back into this system. Not only does this account for our carbon emissions, but it also aids forest conservation and the protection of biodiversity, whilst aiding international poverty alleviation efforts. For us it is about much more than the carbon.

Going forward, what are we doing to limit our carbon emissions?

A common criticism of the carbon offsetting ‘industry’ is that it does nothing to dissuade organisations from reducing their emissions, as they can simply offset them elsewhere. However, our experience is that the cost of carbon offsets itself can encourage this reduction. We are also keen to limit and reduce our carbon emissions (indeed it is written into our ethics policy). We already limit the amount of paper we use, and follow standard tricks such as turning lights off, and powering down computers at night. Given that Carbomap operate internationally we try to limit our travel emissions too, we regularly use Skype for conducting long-distance meetings where we can, negating the need to meet in person (which would incur significant emissions from travel). We also have some exciting announcements coming up, which further contribute to our commitment to limiting our environmental impact. Keep your eyes peeled!


Carbomap Teams Up with rapidlasso

PRESS RELEASE (for immediate release)
December 4, 2014
Carbomap Ltd., Edinburgh, UK

Just in time for ELMF 2014 in Amsterdam, Carbomap Ltd. and rapidlasso GmbH have teamed up to further the development of tools that better exploit full-waveform LiDAR for the forestry and carbon market. This partnership brings together many years of expertise in processing discrete and full-waveform LiDAR with a wealth of experience in applying this technology within forestry and biomass applications.

The full-waveform tools are built around the PulseWaves format, an open LiDAR format that is the full-waveform sibling of the venerable LAS format, reaffirming a joint committment to support the use of open data formats within the LiDAR industry. Software will be developed both as stand-alone tools as well as for use within the IDL framework.

The use of LiDAR in the forest and carbon industries is expanding rapidly. The new partnership between rapidlasso and Carbomap targets the development of solutions for this growing market. Together the two companies can offer a wider range of tools for vegetation analysis that better exploit the additional information captured by a modern full-waveform scanner, including the newest multispectral instruments.


Antoine Cottin (left), CTO of Carbomap, and Martin Isenburg (right), CEO of rapidlasso, discuss technology details about their new partnership.

About Carbomap Ltd:

Carbomap is an environmental survey company spun out of the University of Edinburgh. The company takes forward over five years of world-class research in the development of a Multispectral Canopy LiDAR, a revolutionary, patent-pending laser scanning instrument designed to fill a gap in airborne forest survey requirements. The founders are international renown for remote sensing methodologies, satellite radar mapping, forest structure mapping, carbon sequestration and airborne survey. Carbomap is currently the only company with tools for analysing multispectral LiDAR for forest applications. Visit for more information.

About rapidlasso GmbH:

Technology start-up rapidlasso GmbH specializes in efficient LiDAR processing tools that are widely known for their high productivity. They combine robust algorithms with efficient I/O and clever memory management to achieve high throughput for data sets containing billions of points. The company’s flagship product – the LAStools software suite – has deep market penetration and is heavily used in industry, government agencies, research labs, and educational institutions. Visit for more information.

Movember – John Clarke Hawkshaw

Things are going well with Movember, and we have raised £130 already (and we haven’t even completed the challenge yet!). We know that many people are waiting for the end of the month to donate, making sure that the Carbomoustaches remain until then, but we thought you would like a photographic update. Remember that it is all for a great cause, and you can donate on our team page here!

Photo on 20-11-2014 at 10.50 #2

Todays historical moustache, sporting a handlebar moustache just like some Carbomappers this month, is the civil engineer John Clarke Hawkshaw.


John was the president of the Institute of Chartered Engineers (ICE) between 1902 and 1903, following in his fathers footsteps (who had been the president between 1861 and 1863). This Mancunian engineer was a (very) early advocate of low-carbon energy sources, who promoted the sustainable use of electricity generation technology such as Hydro-Electric Power. Showing that ideas about how we could better live on the planet and interact with natural ecosystems, have been around for more than 100 years!

Two and a half weeks into Movember (and an introduction to Sir Henry Morton Stanley)

Things are going well with Carbomap’s Movember campaign, with the team having raised £60 just halfway through the month. I’m sure many of you will be holding out until the end of November to donate (making sure we keep the moustaches until the very end) but why not help us keep the momentum going and donate early? Here is our team page!

As we’ve said before, all the money donated goes to men’s health charities, so it’s all for a good cause!

But of course, we couldn’t update you without covering another famous moustache from history, and to keep on the same theme of explorers in Africa, our choice today is Sir Henry Morton Stanley.


Source: Wikipedia


Perhaps the most famous thing he did (or said rather) was the eternal phrase, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”. Welshman, Stanley made an exploration of central Africa and searched for the missionary explorer David Livingstone. Sir Henry is attributed with the European discovery of the source of the Nile, and was knighted in 1899, five years before his death at the age of 63.

Movember Update – David Livingstone

Movember is going well here at Carbomap, you can take a look at our moustache growing achievements to date on our Movember page.

Remember, we’re not just doing this for fun, there is a seriousness behind it all too. We’re raising money for men’s health charities. Did you know that 77% of suicides in the United Kingdom are men? And that every day 12 men in our country choose to end their own lives. There is support out there, but it is badly underfunded. This year, the Movember Foundation has added mental health to their arsenal of causes to fight. Find out more and donate to Carbomap’s group here.

In addition to the update, we’re running a series about some of the most notable moustaches in history (with a scientific bias, because we’re all scientists here at Carbomap). Today’s personality is David Livingstone.


David Livingstone Source: Wikipedia

David Livingstone was a Scottish Christian missionary, who is famous for his explorations in Africa (and also the subject of the popular quotation “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”). Amongst other things, here at Carbomap we admire Livingstone for his stance on slavery (he was staunchly anti-slavery), scientific investigations, African explorations, and his story as being one of “rags to riches”.

Perhaps David’s closest link to Carbomap was his expedition along the Zambezi, being the first European expedition to Lake Malawi, which his party explored in a four-oared gig. Carbomap co-founder, and CEO, Prof. Iain Woodhouse is no stranger to Malawi. Having spent some time there on a sabbatical from the University of Edinburgh, but more recently for his REDD Horizon project. A community-level project that brings together scientists, companies, government agencies and artists, with local groups and people, who live in forested areas of Malawi to support the sustainable use of forests and their natural resources across Malawi as a whole.

Movember – Albert Einstein

Carbomap are taking part in Movember to raise money for men’s health charities, such as those who champion the fight against prostate cancer.

We promise to give you regular updates on our moustache growing progress (you’ll need to visit our Movember page to see them), and we would really appreciate it if you were able to make a donation through our page to some very worthwhile charities.

We also thought it would also be a good opportunity to remind you about some of the famous scientific moustaches of human history. To kick off we thought we would go with arguably the most famous moustachioed scientist in history, Albert Einstein.


Albert Einstein source: Wikipedia

Albert Einstein is the renown theoretical physicist famous for developing the theory of general relativity and his mass-energy equivalence formula, E=mc2. In 1921 Albert received the Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”. It wasn’t given for General Relativity as this was seen as too controversial at the time.

However, the photoelectric effect has helped us to better understand the relationships between electromagnetic energy and other materials. Amongst other things, Einstein proposed that a beam of light is not a wave or a particle, but rather a collection of discrete wave packets; what we now call photons. Photons are obviously very important to the LiDAR systems we use at Carbomap, and recently we have seen the development of photon-counting LiDAR instruments.

Carbomap featured in GIM International magazine

The fun and exciting work that we have been doing on the project in French Guiana has been feature in the August 2014 edition of GIM International.

You can read our article below, which discusses the demonstration of a UAV-LiDAR and its first use in a rainforest!

If you think that the article is interesting, and you want to read about other similar projects in the world of mapping then you can sign up to get the digital version of GIM International for free. You’ll also then be able to see the rest of the August magazine (with some other really interesting stories).

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The impact of scale on remote sensing of forests

The role of forests within the global ecosystem is something we’ve discussed quite a bit through our blog. From the ecosystem services that forests provide, to the proposed implementation of REDD+ and the concept of natural capital. Carbomap specialises in remote sensing monitoring techniques, collecting key data for effective and robust management of these environments, and we thought we would take a closer look at the differences between scales of monitoring.


Paracou, French Guiana – 1km2 spatial resolution

Satellites provide an ideal solution for providing synoptic views of forests at very large scales. For example, free global data products from NASA’s MODIS satellite are available (up to) every 8 days. This satellite provides optical images (light we can see, plus infrared) which can be easily combined with other data to extract useful information. However, a downside is the poor resolution of the images. The best products available from MODIS are 250m squares- though typically they are 1km. To demonstrate how this would look for the project in French Guiana we created this canopy height model image.

Although there are satellites which can provide a much higher level of detail, the cost of data from these satellites can be expensive. Instruments such as MODIS are perfect for looking at the international or regional scale, and provide a great approach for giving a broad snapshot over a large area.

Paracou, French Guiana - 1ha spatial resolution

Paracou, French Guiana – 1ha spatial resolution

However, here are Carbomap we feel that if you have a monitoring budget, and the area of forest doesn’t cover vast areas, then other types of data are better fit for purpose. Other sources, such as radar, can give you  measurements of the forest structure, which is more useful for estimating carbon (the focus of REDD+).

One of the most widely used radar datasets for such applications is the SRTM dataset. This is also free, and has an approximate resolution of a hectare (1 hectare = 100x100m2), which is good for looking at the landscape to regional level. To give you an idea of what a CHM from such data might look like in French Guiana, we’ve created this image.

There are other types of radar data more accurate than SRTM, for example TerraSAR-X can provide data at a resolution down to the metres level, but again cost starts to creep in. However, given the amount of information that you can get for large areas, this is an incredibly economic way of monitoring your forest.

But what about if you need much finer information? What if your forest is on a smaller scale?


Paracou, French Guiana – 1m2 spatial resolution

The answer that Carbomap would give you is LiDAR. Aircraft and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle laser scanning instruments are ideal platforms for measuring forests on the plot to landscape scale. The resolution can be down to the centimetre level, and the information is in 3D – showing details about the canopy height and structure that is not possible from other remote sensing technologies. In the image here it is easy to see the improved level of detail is compared to the above images from satellite resolution data.

Full Airborne LiDAR systems can cover hundreds of square kilometres in a single flight, meaning that you can collect a lot of detailed data very quickly. They are ideally suited to the landscape and regional scale. UAVs on the other hand have a more limited range, covering tens of square kilometres in a single flight. These limitations are partly due to the size of the craft and battery life, but also related to UAV flight legislation. We have discussed the differences between full Airborne LiDAR and UAV-LiDAR in an earlier blog post.

In summary, there are a range of different techniques that you can apply, and each has it’s own strengths and weaknesses; depending on the area of forest and the type of data you’re interested in. If you have some forests that need mapped, get in touch with Carbomap and we can talk about the best approach for you.


Co-authored by Gordon Moran