Optech’s HydroFusion software wins 2014 MAPPS Award

Carbomap is very pleased to learn that Optech’s HydroFusion software wins the 2014 MAPPS Geospatial Products and Services Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. Why?  Because our very own Antoine Cottin contributed to the development of that software.  “I’ve contributed to the development of several environmental mapping modules for several years,” says Antoine. “Back in 2008, early in it development, this software took radical and visionary decisions on the technical and design concepts that have proven today to be the good ones.”

the globe and the flight planning interface

the globe and the flight planning interface

Some of these decisions were: a software entirely written in IDL/ENVI, the use of the Blue Marble Globe to display the data in an interactive way, some very advance flights planning tools required for airborne bathymetric survey with lidar and hyper spectral to maximize sensors performances. And finally some voodoo-magic algorithms from Drs Feygels and Kim, that make the water disappears and magical reveals the beauty of the sea-floor.

“This software shifted a complex processing workflow for bathymetric and data fusion into a one push-button solution. Congratulation to all the software developers at Optech Inc. at the Kiln office and the JALBTCX personnel that make this project a reality”.  And congratulations to Antoine for being part of the successful team.



Faisdodo: Carbomap’s open source LAS Project

Carbomap are delighted to release our “Faisdodo” project. This is an “open source” IDL implementation of a LAS file reader/writer. The laslib class object can read, write and manipulate points and/or full waveform LiDAR contained in the binary LAS file format.

We are aware that although releasing “open source” code in IDL might not be as “open” as code in C/C++, but here at Carbomap we use this library every day in processing our workflow, with fast and efficient results for LiDAR data manipulation.

As it is an open project we are keen for you to get involved, whether this is just providing feedback and reporting bugs, or if you want to build upon our code and contribute to the project directly.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 11.31.01If you’re wondering about the name of the release; it celebrates a Cajun dance party: the Faisdodo.

To get more information, or to download the code directly, please visit the project page here: http://carbomap.github.io/faisdodo/

Carbomap Ltd. has a joint expertise of more than ten years in LiDAR full waveform data processing. This includes bathymetric, topographic, mobile and terrestrial LiDAR systems.

If you want to find out more about Carbomap then you can visit our website or our blog.

LiDAR drone system maps height of rainforest for the first time

Carbomap, a UK forest mapping company today announced that it has collaborated with l’Avion Jaune S.A.R.L and IRD (Institut de recherche pour le développement) in France to complete the first canopy height model of a rainforest using data from the first true UAV-ready LiDAR system (called YellowScan®), an approach which has never been applied before in the tropics.

The project, CANOPOR, coordinated by IRD was funded through the “Investissements d’Avenir” grant managed by Agence Nationale de la Recherche (Labex CEBA), focussed on the Paracou experimental forest site in French Guiana, which is managed by CIRAD (Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement).

The project as a whole has a range of different objectives linked to many aspects of forest mapping, and Carbomap was involved in the generation of the canopy height model using a very high density point cloud.


Canopy Height Model from Paracou Experimental Station

Canopy Height Model from Paracou Experimental Station. The transect at the bottom shows a cross-section of tree heights above the ground.


Data for the canopy height model aspect of the project was collected by mounting the YellowScan® system on a manned helicopter. The helicopter then replicated the flight parameters of a typical UAV drone, and provided proof of concept for this approach.The UAV approach is more adapted to this type of work, in comparison to the current industry standard which uses full size airplanes for Airborne LiDAR surveys, for a number of reasons. Firstly the flight altitude of a UAV is significantly lower than that of a normal surveying aircraft, which helps to overcome problems of cloud and atmospheric interference in rainforest. UAV’s also fly at much lower speeds than normal aircraft, meaning that a much higher point density can be achieved.   The result is a highly cost-effective system that is especially appropriate for developing countries where airborne LiDAR is expensive to deploy.

To generate the canopy height model, Carbomap used their bespoke processing chain to extract the terrain level from the point cloud. The particular challenge of this project was the high density of the forest itself, which limited the ease of identifying the ground. To do this Carbomap developed an algorithm that is capable of retrieving the few points which correspond to the ground, to generate a bare earth digital terrain model (DTM). Once this was extracted the canopy height model was determined from the height of the trees above the ground.

The next stages in Carbomap’s forest mapping workflow are the extraction of other forest metrics from the data. Examples of this are the amount of aboveground biomass or Carbon stored within the forest area, and if multiple datasets over time are available, then the change in forest cover, from which changes in forest carbon, can also be measured.

This international collaboration, between the Edinburgh-based Carbomap and the French organisations L’Avion Jaune S.A.R.L and IRD, demonstrates the international appeal for the further development of such forest mapping approaches.

Professor Iain Woodhouse, CEO of Carbomap said, “The exciting prospect here is that it demonstrated how a UAV LiDAR can map rainforests in 3D on the landscape scale. The UAV LiDAR approach offers a low cost alternative to sending people into the field to make measurements, yet it provides much higher detail than can be achieved with satellites”.

About Carbomap Ltd

Carbomap is an environmental survey company which spun out of the University of Edinburgh in 2013. The company takes forward over four years of world-class research within the University 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. Carbomap has a world beating team. The scientific founders have international reputations in remote sensing methodologies, satellite radar mapping, forest structure mapping, carbon sequestration and airborne survey. http://www.carbomap.com

About Carbomap’s technology

Carbomap is pioneering a state-of-the-art approach to measuring and mapping the world’s forest carbon called Multi Spectral Canopy LiDAR, which is optimised to measure forest properties by combining the proven strengths of hyper spectral sensing with the 3D structural information from LiDAR. Carbomap can provide forest managers, carbon traders and certifying authorities with independently verified, forest map products to support their strategic decision making. Carbon investors always need to carry out due diligence and ensure quality control to minimise the investment risk. Carbomap provides cost-effective and accurate forest information to support effective decision making.

Carbomap’s approach, which uses four wavelengths, offers significant advantages over existing commercially available single wavelength LiDAR systems. In addition to generating 3D maps as standard, Carbomap’s proprietary system utilises four specific colour bands (rather than one) that are uniquely tuned to measure the health and function of trees, thus providing information from throughout the forest, including the under-canopy vegetation, which is important for the management of fire and invasive species such as rhododendron.

“This kind of information will provide improved capacity to conduct forest inventory and to comply with the increasingly demanding policy directives intended to promote sustainable forestry, increase carbon stocks and conserve biodiversity,” said Prof. Woodhouse. “Our technology provides a cost reduction of at least 50% over traditional ground survey and also provides a level of forest information that cannot be achieved with other airborne scanning systems.”

Standard single-wavelength LiDAR systems use one colour and typically record multiple echoes: one for the top of the tree, the other for the ground surface. This is mostly used for typical surveying activities, such as making OS-type maps, or for engineering, construction and infrastructure planning.

About L’Avion Jaune S.A.R.L

Founded 2005 by three associates, L’Avion Jaune S.A.R.L started as a development and service company based on UAV technology. Reality and opportunities made it evolve to a full aerial imagery service company using manned planes and helicopters as well as UAVs. Since the beginning, its commitment to fulfills high resolution and high quality radiometric requirements has fueled its research and development department.

About L’Avion Jaune’s technology

L’Avion Jaune has created YellowScan®, an all-in-one ultra-light laser scanner intended for UAVs and other ultra-light aircrafts. With less than 2 kg, YellowScan® incorporates a laser scanner head, an inertial measurement unit and a high-grade GPS. YellowScan® has low power consumption (20 Watt) and extremely compact dimensions (20 x 15 x 15 cm). YellowScan® is the world’s lightest standalone surveying solution for drones and other ultralight aircrafts.

YellowScan® is suited for very high resolution surveys. It can operates up to 150 m above ground level with a resolution of 10 cm. Typical scan angle measurement is ±50°.

The system provides up to 3 echoes per shot, allowing to get topographic information under vegetation cover.

About l’Institut de Recherche pour le Développement

The IRD is a French research organisation, original and unique on the European development research scene. Emphasizing interdisciplinarity, the IRD has focused its research for over 65 years on the relationship between man and its environment, in Africa, Mediterranean, Latin America, Asia and the French tropical overseas territories. Its research, training and innovation activities are intended to contribute to the social, economic and cultural development of southern countries.

About the CEBA

The Center for the study of Biodiversity in Amazonia (CEBA) is a network of 11 internationally -recognized French research laboratories involved in biodiversity research in Amazonia in different aspects: biodiscovery, ecology, genetics, modelling, biodiversity & public health, social sciences, etc.

The teams of the CEBA, based in French Guiana, mainland France and the French Antilles, bring together a staff of around 150 people in total (researchers, engineers, PhD students, etc.). The CEBA fosters cutting-edge research on biodiversity in French Guiana and enables the partner teams to lead joint projects thanks to long-term funding.

The CEBA was labelled « Laboratoire d’Excellence » in 2011 in the framework of the calls of proposals launched by the French National Research Agency (ANR) in the Investissements d’Avenir programme. It will conduct its activities from 2011 until 2019.

Contact information

Prof Iain Woodhouse, Carbomap Ltd., info@carbomap.com, +44 7887 551724

Dr. Tristan Allouis, L’Avion Jaune S.A.R.L., yellowscan@lavionjaune.fr

More information

Carbomap Ltd. : http://www.carbomap.com/

l’Avion Jaune S.A.R.L : http://yellowscan.lavionjaune.com/

IRD : http://en.ird.fr/

CEBA : http://www.labex-ceba.fr/en

CIRAD : http://www.cirad.fr/en


The full transect with Google Earth imagery in the background.


With the ground elevation normalised to a flat surface, this image just shows one slice of the canopy structure. Individual tree crowns are visible, and emergent trees can be clearly seen on the right hand side.

Value of world’s forest carbon underestimated by more than 20%

Carbomap’s analysis of Costa Rican forest demonstrates a possible $800 billion shortfall and need for better carbon accounting

Carbomap today announced that it has completed a three-dimensional carbon map of a forested region in Costa Rica. The map reveals that the actual carbon content is 22% higher than published values using traditional satellite methods of measuring forest carbon.

Estimated using approved methodologies by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the global forest carbon stocks are understood to contain 638 billion tonnes of carbon, which may be valued at more than $3.8 trillion (using an average price of $6 per tonne of carbon).


Underpinning any carbon credit trading is the need for accurate carbon stock calculations. Carbon stock calculations and their ongoing verification can therefore represent significant costs within any carbon trading transaction, and accuracy is important.

The data collected by Carbomap shows that the value of protecting global forest carbon could be being significantly underestimated, potentially by as much as $800 billion.

In collaboration with the Global Conservation Standard, Carbomap used data collected by NASA’s experimental LVIS airborne laser scanning system to better estimate the above-ground carbon stocks in a project area. This is the first time that fully volumetric LiDAR data of this kind has been used as a tool for valuing forest carbon.

Using satellite-collected data from existing scientific studies, the forested area in Costa Rica was estimated to contain between 14.4 and 16.3 million tonnes of carbon. However, using the more detailed information available from the airborne LVIS system, Carbomap estimates the same area to contain at least 19.8 million tonnes of carbon.


“We have developed a unique processing tool that allows us to extract very detailed information about the forest and we have found that the total above-ground carbon content was 22% higher than the average of the satellite estimates,” said Prof. Iain Woodhouse, Founder and CEO, Carbomap. “Satellite data cannot provide information on the vertical dimension of the forest, such as canopy height and layering, which are crucial to accurate measurement of the carbon, the biodiversity and the underlying ground surface.”

In addition to the clear economic benefits from sustainable timber, countries around the world are increasingly looking to protect their forest assets and reduce deforestation through UNFCC initiatives such as the REDD-plus framework. To date, $14.5 billion has already been pledged to support initiatives under the programme.

Multiscale mapping of forests (not to scale)

Multiscale mapping of forests (not to scale)

In order to quantify the financial value of the carbon stored in the forests, for the benefit of forest carbon investors, and certification schemes, more than $2.7bn is already spent annually on forest monitoring. Currently, the most common methods of measuring forests are ground-based measurement, analysis of satellite data or single-colour airborne laser scanning.

“It’s very important to forest asset owners that they are able to accurately value the carbon content of their forests and we have shown with this exercise that estimates based on satellite data are well below the actual carbon value of forests,” said Prof. Woodhouse.

Four stages  - collecting data

Four stages – collecting data

“Our technology could be considered like an MRI scanner for forests, and provides even better carbon measurement capabilities than NASA’s LVIS system”.


Forest mapping stepping into the limelight

An exciting trend is beginning to emerge; interest in forest mapping data is rising!

The Global Forest Watch project by the guys over at the World Resources Institute was recently featured in the international media (see the BBC News report here). 

Powered by Google Earth, and drawing data from the University of Maryland’s map of Global Forest Change it enables near-real time monitoring of forest cover across the tropical regions. This will allow users, ranging from Governments and large corporations to indigenous population groups and interested individuals, to increase their understanding about where forest cover is changing.

This attention demonstrates that the people are interested in understanding more about the impacts on forests, and how these link to the global picture of sustainability and climate change. It also shows an understanding that unless we can accurately map these changes, and quantify them, there is little that can be done to combat any problems or applaud successes.

At Carbomap we think these kinds of tools provide the perfect starting point for in-depth mapping of forests. Once you have a good idea of where the changes are taking place – the monthly forest change updates for the tropics are only at a resolution of 500m – you can focus your energies into getting more information at higher detail in those places where you can see there is something happening. This detailed information could be the number of trees in area, the actual amount of wood, and even the carbon stored in that area of forest, which the overview methods cannot provide.

Multiscale mapping of forests (not to scale)

Multiscale mapping of forests (not to scale)

Our handy factsheet; “How do you measure a forest?” demonstrates the different options available. The satellite based approach, utilised effectively by the Global Forest Watch and other companies (such as Ecometrica and Global Surface Intelligence) that do a similar thing, provides the large scale, synoptic, measurements.  We are also developing something similar in partnership with Ecometrica, but based on radar data at higher spatial resolutions and without the problem of cloud cover (still a constant limitation for optical sensors in many tropical forest areas.  More on that soon).

Individual trees can be identified

We can automatically identify trees in the lidar data, shown here overlain on aerial photography. This demonstrates the much higher level of detail obtained from airborne lidar.

Data can be analysed in 3D

Data can be automatically analysed in 3D.

To get finer detail you need to get in closer. For this you can send people out into the field to take direct measurements of the trees, which is the most common approach. However to measure a whole area of forest accurately this can take a very long time, and can end up rather expensive. The other option available to you is to use aircraft and UAVs; which provide the best of both worlds (satellites and ground measurements). The use of scanning LiDAR means that you can extract 3D information about individual trees, and by having the instrument on an aircraft you can cover larger areas of forest in the same amount of time, than would be possible by foot.

It is now possible for any organisation or government agency that wants to demonstrate and quantify that they are having a positive impact (or at the very least not a negative impact) on forests effectively, can combine multiple sources of data: satellites for large-coverage and low-resolution, and airborne LiDAR for high detail over smaller areas.  By combining both approaches, the very best forest maps can be made.

Factsheet 3: Who buys forest data?

We have just produced some factsheets about Carbomap:  what we do, why and the market opportunity.   Feel free to download and share.

Factsheet #1: How do you measure a forests?

Factsheet #2: How do trees make money?

Factsheet #3: Why buys forest data?

who buys forest data

Factsheet 2: How do trees make money?

We have just produced some factsheets about Carbomap:  what we do, why and the market opportunity.   Feel free to download and share.

Factsheet #1: How do you measure a forests?

Factsheet #2: How do trees make money?

Factsheet #3: Why buys forest data?

How do trees make money?

Factsheet 1: How do you measure a forest?

We have just produced some factsheets about Carbomap:  what we do, why and the market opportunity.   Feel free to download and share.

Factsheet #1: How do you measure a forests?

Factsheet #2: How do trees make money?

Factsheet #3: Why buys forest data?

How to measure a forest

Free forest mapping graphics


This gallery contains 10 photos.

Here are some free graphics provided under a creative commons licence.  You are free to use and share, with attribution.  We hope you find them useful for teaching or illustrating some of the features of airborne forest mapping, and aim … Continue reading

What free forest/lidar graphics would you like?

Carbomap has established a bit of a reputation over the years for its stylish and clear graphics that convey some of the aspects of remote sensing of forests.   So we thought it would be a good idea to make these available to educators or professionals, with a view to helping communicate more widely the importance of using remote sensing for forest mapping.     Please subscribe to the blog, follow us on twitter @carbomap, like us on Facebook, follow us on LinkedIn, or email us at info@carbomap.com, so that we can let you know as soon as they are available.

blog trees 2 copy 2

In the meantime, please let us know (by “commenting” here or tweeting or emailing) which topics you would like to see conveyed in stylish graphical form (must be a forest-remote sensing link) and we will add them to the “wish list”