The world is changing – new remote sensing technology tells you where and how

An increasing number of services that are becoming commonplace in people’s daily lives need up-to-date and reliable location information – that is, the most accurate updated map. A recently published study suggests for the first time how the latest digital remote sensing materials at different scales as well as automations could be used to effectively update maps.

Read the full news release at FGI website

See video about the research paper’s results

The aim of the study was to examine new mapping technology providing much more versatile information about the terrain than current methods. The study creates a vision of how the new data made possible by modern technology can be used and combined with older methods.

In the concept, drawn up by a multinational group of researchers, regional changes – such as new construction and felling of forests – are first observed in open satellite data covering most of the earth. The data concerning the changes is then confirmed using new high-precision methods authenticating the changes’ precise extent and type.

The new technology is much more precise, but also much more expensive, than the methods widely used at present. The research team presents an idea of how at least some of the more accurate measurements can be targeted cost-effectively at significant regions of change. The goal is to have more accurate and up-to-date maps and city models.

“There is a global need to increase the effectiveness of updating methods. Interpretation of change data from the latest remote sensing material can be more thoroughly automated, which opens new opportunities to support map updating with artificial intelligence. In our vision for the future, map updating processes will become faster and more accurate, because mapping experts can focus directly on interpreting changes, rather than looking for them,” says the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute’s Research Manager Eetu Puttonen.

Intensity images from Optech Titan airborne laser scanner data from two dates and automatically detected changes presented in red colour with map data. Finnish Geospatial Research Institute FGI, The National Land Survey of Finland; Contains data from the National Land Survey of Finland Topographic database 2015.

More information: Research Manager Eetu Puttonen, +358 29 531 4868,

Matikainen, L., Pandžić, M., Li, F., Karila, K., Hyyppä, J., Litkey, P., Kukko, A., Lehtomäki, M., Karjalainen, M., and E. Puttonen, 2019. Toward utilizing multitemporal multispectral airborne laser scanning, Sentinel-2, and mobile laser scanning in map updating. Journal of Applied Remote Sensing, 13(4), 044504.

Junttila’s Dissertation published as a music video

Junttila’s Dissertation published as a music video

Our researcher Samuli Junttila’s dissertation Utilizing multispectral lidar in the detection of declined trees has been published and popularized as a music video.

The main objective of Junttila’s thesis was to investigate the capabilities of multispectral terrestrial lidar in the detection and assessment of tree decline caused by different stressors. This was done by investigating the estimation of a remotely detectable indicator of tree decline, leaf water content (LWC).

The World’s forests are facing novel stress due to climate change. Pest insects and pathogens are shifting towards new latitudes and heat stress is resulting in increased tree mortality and more frequent forest fires globally. Uncertainty in estimating the magnitude of climate change induced forest and tree decline requires new methods for unbiased estimation of tree decline.

The dissertation contributes both to the development of an objective and automatable method for detecting and measuring tree decline in the field, and to the understanding of the relationship between LWC and tree decline with implications to remote sensing.

Read more:

See the Video here:

Backpack LiDAR surveying to prepare for planet exploration in cooperation with NASA

Data captured by a KLS system

Laser scanning technology and expertise are needed in space. In recent American Surveyor article FINESSE Exploration Strategies using High-Resolution LiDAR Surveying LiDAR instruments and surveying techniques are considered integral tools in the future exploration of planets.

Today NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science and Exploration (FINESSE) program’s exploration strategies are being developed using Tripod and Mobile LiDAR instruments.

Due to the extremely high costs of visiting and exploring objects in space, such as the Moon, Mars and other planets, it is crucial to find the right tools and techniques for collecting high-quality data for research. This can be done by making experiments in comparable places on Earth.

Valuable information with LiDAR

The FINESSE scientists have been exploring the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (CRMO) in the Snake River Plain of Idaho. As a part of the cooperation CoE-LaSR research professor Antero Kukko has been performing technology demonstrations using an FGI originating backpack mobile laser scanning system Akhka-R3.

In a lava field environment the Lidar detects details often more precise than 1 cm point distribution revealing even tiny details of the surface. The collected data enables the producing of high-accuracy topographic maps and provides information on terrain roughness and morphology features of the surveyed area.

The Backpack system developed in FGI has proven to be an efficient tool for fast collection of precise information in lava fields. The findings indicate that in similar conditions, i.e. in Mars, terrestrial and mobile laser scanning are good options for collecting data for further analogy and exploration studies.

Read the full article in The American Surveyor

Picture: Antero Kukko

The FINESSE program is a consortium of more than 30 research scientists. Their goal is to generate strategic knowledge in preparation for the human and robotic exploration of the Moon, near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) and Phobos & Deimos.

CoE -LaSR -research popular in international media in 2016

Laser scanning research got recognition among the international media in 2016. Our “sleeping trees” findings and advances in mobile laser scanning gained international audiences both in scientific journals and popular news. Two articles by CoE -LaSR researchers were in the top 10 of GIM International magazine’s most read articles 2016, and a Coe – LaSR cooperation  article on birch tree’s day-night cycles was listed as one of the 12 best science stories of the year by The New Scientist.

The articles in GIM International brought insight into topics of personal laser scanners (PLS) and unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The main interest and focus was on the development of new scanning systems and potential applications utilizing them in 3D data collection.


First high performance backpack system Akhka in spotlight


GIM readers appreciated Kukko’s, Kaartinen’s and Virtanen’s insights into the advantages of personal laser scanners (PLS) such as Akhka R2 PLS in mapping complex environments presented in the article Laser Scanner in a Backpack – The Evolution towards All-terrain Personal Laser Scanners in GIM International 15/02/2016.

Backpack system allows data acquisition in environments, which have before been hard, or even impossible, to reach with “conventional” wheeled mobile laser scanning systems (MLS).


To our knowledge, the Akhka PLS system has been the first backpack system with such high data acquisition capability. After the publication of this article, an updated revision, AkhkaR3, has been released with even higher performance sensors.

The current possibilities and future opportunities for using new and more cost-effective laser scanning methods were discussed in the article The Current State of the Art in UAS-based Laser Scanning – Airborne Laser Scanning with a UAS  by Kukko, Jaakkola and Hyyppä. The article gives an overview of different types of UASs, both current and emerging laser scanners and UAS laser scanning applications.


New research fields for laser scanning for plant dynamics


The New Scientist story ’Trees seen resting branches while ‘asleep’ for the first time illustrated a novel application of using the high potential of terrestrial laser scanning measurements in the field of chronobiology. The study, a joint international research collaboration with Dr. Eetu Puttonen from NLS FGI and TU Wien, clearly demonstrated circadian movements of silver birch branches and showed for the first time that lidar measurements can detect nocturnal physical changes in trees that resemble a resting or a sleeping pattern.

Above: Overnight movement of a small tree acquired with three different terrestrial laser scanners. Each frame represents the point clouds measured at the shown time with color. The point coloring shows the reflectance of each measured point that were calibrated using an external calibration target. The black point cloud shows the tree’s original posture at sunset.


The results were exciting as they support the use of high resolution terrestrial laser scanning in monitoring plant dynamics with short time intervals and in a non-destructive manner. Additionally, the laser scanning measurements can be scaled up to cover for example several full-grown trees of different species simultaneously with short preparation times.

Read the original research article: Frontiers in Plant Science: Quantification of Overnight Movement of Birch (Betula pendula) Branches and Foliage with Short Interval Terrestrial Laser Scanning


Study: Leafy areas are the coolest in cities

Land type has an impact on local weather in urban areas, according to the findings of a joint study of CoE, University of Helsinki and Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI).  The local temperature can vary several degrees and even small pockets of trees, water and parkland can bring a relief on hot days in the concrete jungle. Read more in the recent story in the Guardian. The research results have been published as a scientific article Urban surface cover determined with airborne lidar at 2 m resolution – Implications for surface energy balance modelling in the journal Urban Climate.


Sensei – UAV

Sensei, an early unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) -based laser scanner developed at FGI that has contributed significantly to the emerging mini-UAV laser scanner field, is presented in GEO informatics December issue 8/2013. Read more (page 20).

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