UAV–LiDAR and spaceborne remote sensing in the Beetaloo

Using cutting edge technology to monitor habitat condition in the Northern Territory's Beetaloo Sub-basin

This CSIRO research project will develop a scalable approach for monitoring the structural condition of vegetation in the Beetaloo Sub-basin.

Reliable estimates of habitat change are critical for monitoring the effects of resource development and minimising adverse consequences for biodiversity.

Accurate and scalable monitoring tools are essential for providing landowners, regulators, community members and other stakeholders with confidence that the natural and important characteristics of the ecosystem are preserved.

Recent rapid advances in UAV-LiDAR technology now enable the three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction of landscapes and vegetation in fine detail, over large spatial areas.

LiDAR (Light, Detection and Ranging) refers to a method of survey data capture whereby a laser is reflected off an object and the response time to the return sensor enables the calculation of the distance. When many thousands of laser pulses occur every second a detailed 3D point cloud of the surroundings can be created.

3D image of Beetaloo Sub-basing vegetation

A three-dimensional (3D) image of Beetaloo Sub-basin vegetation. The colour scale shows height above ground level.

This technology provides a bridge between what can be collected in the field, and what can be estimated from space. It provides a robust snapshot of ecosystem state at a particular point in time, that can be used for calibrating and validating satellite remote sensing products.

CSIRO sicentists will use drones fitted with high-precision LiDAR sensors to map key areas of interest at repeated time intervals to assess change in habitat structure through time.

These 3D temporal datasets will test the sensitivity of different satellite sensors for detecting patterns of system dynamics, and to develop a scalable method for monitoring habitat change over larger spatial areas.

This combination of high-quality 3D data at local scales and well-calibrated satellite data over larger scales will help ensure that mitigation measures and regulatory controls achieve their objectives.