The results produced by the Centre of Excellence in Laser Scanning Research significant for society

Laser scanning scientists at work in the field. Picture: Juha Hyyppä

The scientific achievements of the Centre of Excellence in Laser Scanning Research (CoE-LaSR) have produced plenty of benefits with far reaching impact both commercially and societally. The CoE-LaSR developed innovations particularly for forestry and the built environment.

The CoE-LaSR was led by the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI) from 2014 to 2019. Other members of the CoE-LaSR were Aalto University, the University of Helsinki, and the University of Oulu. Funded by the Academy of Finland Centres of Excellence programme, the CoE-LaSR educated 30 new professors for 12 universities or research institutes, 24 doctors and 24 masters in various fields.

One of them is Joanne White who graduated as Doctor of Science during her time at the CoE-LaSR. Her scientific achievements have made her one the most highly-cited researchers of the last decade. White’s achievements include promoting the use of laser scanning in forest inventories.

The CoE-LaSR published over 400 scientific publications, many of which are significant in their field, highly cited or have attracted numerous reads. Some of them are award-winning articles published in world-class publications. In their 10 year’s review, the Remote Sensing Journal assessed the publications from the FGI and the University of Helsinki in their journal as having the highest quality, which is an excellent sign of the CoE-LaSR’s success. This means that the articles have been cited the most.

The articles written by groups of CoE-LaSR researchers surpassed articles produced by top-class universities, and internationally famous research institutes and organisations, such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Cutting-edge technology and open science

The CoE-LaSR also brought advances in technology, for example, new electronics for laser scanning, new laser scanning methods and systems, and new developments of the backpack laser scanner for mobile surveying. The CoE-LaSR researchers also developed and tested mini-UAV laser scanning methods based on autonomic operation. The CoE-LaSR also participated in the advancement of precision forestry, and virtualising and modelling built environment. In addition, the CoE-LaSR provided training to future laser scanning experts in the field of forestry at the Shinshu University in Japan.

‘The new research and surveying methods and the more accurate forestry data have a significant financial impact. For example, in Finland where we have a lot of forests, the savings brought by the new precision forestry technology can be up to several hundred million euros. The CoE-LaSR has significantly progressed the forest industry’s Efficient Wood Supply 2025 vision that aims to increase the efficiency of the wood value chain by 30%’, says Juha Hyyppä from FGI, who was the Principal Investigator of the CoE-LaSR.

The CoE-LaSR has promoted the openness of research and research data exceptionally well. The MeMo research group, a cooperation between FGI and the Aalto University, was awarded the first ever national open science award in 2019. MeMo was led by professor Hannu Hyyppä from Aalto University. According to a study by the Ministry of Education and Culture, FGI is the most advanced research institution in Finland when it comes to open science.

Bringing science and the business world together

The results produced by the CoE-LaSR also included several publications in the fields of trade and business. The project’s results have had significant and direct commercial and societal impacts: ten spin-off companies were born out of the CoE-LaSR that now employ almost one hundred people.

‘The societal and scientific impacts of the CoE-LaSR are far reaching and will be present in the years or even decades to come. Even with the most revolutionary advances in technology and science, it often takes years or even decades before the full impact to the society and the scientific development can be seen, says Juha Hyyppä.

Combining science and art – the result surprised with its popularity

The scientific, economic and societal achievements of the CoE-LaSR are in a class of their own. The project also yielded some unexpected results in the world of art with a doctoral thesis from the University of Helsinki. That thesis was turned into a music video.

The esteemed Science Magazine annually organises a Dance your Ph.D. contest that awards the videos that best manage to explain scientific results in creative ways. The winner of the Physics category this year was a music video submitted by Samuli JunttilaIdän Proffa – Keilaa puita feat. Linda Ilves(link is external), where Junttila, PhD in forest sciences, explains his climate-change-related research by rapping about it. Junttila is the first Finnish winner of the contest.

Plenty of other cooperation in art and culture was conducted during the CoE-LaSR’s years of operation. The MeMo research group, a cooperation between Aalto University and FGI, created 3D models of the traditional cross-country skiing routes in Lahti for Yle’s sports department, produced the first ever virtual radio play with Svenska Yle for the Helsinki Festival, enriched plays and theatre performances with augmented reality and participated in the Kutitus children’s art festival multiple times. Aalto university has also made a 3D model of the Espoo Cultural Centre to facilitate building art installations, and modelled several other cultural locations.

More information

Department Director Juha Hyyppä, juha.coelasr@gmail.com

Research Professor Antero Kukko, +358 50 409 4696, firstname.lastname@nls.fi

Professor of Measuring and Modeling for the Built Environment Hannu Hyyppä, +358 50 512 2520, firstname.lastname@aalto.fi

Professor of Geoinformatics Markus Holopainen, +358 50 448 6181 firstname.lastname@helsinki.fi

 

 

 

 

Results Available for International Benchmarking of Terrestrial Laser Scanning Methods

The potential of terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) in forest applications, both in industry and in national forest inventories (NFIs), has gained increasing awareness in the last two decades. Boosting this development, there has been tremendous research efforts and progress on the topic.

In 2014, a TLS benchmarking project was launched by the European Spatial Data Research Organization (EuroSDR) and hosted by the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI). 18 groups from Asia, Europe and North America have successfully processed the data and submitted their results for evaluation. Latest results of the work were published in ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing along with open data on the sample plots.

Three complexity categories of the sample plots in the TLS benchmarking
Three complexity categories of the sample plots in the TLS benchmarking: “Easy” (left) represents sparser stem densities and little understory vegetation, “Medium” (middle) represents moderate stem densities and sparse understory vegetation, and “Difficult” (right) represents high stem densities with dense understory vegetation. © Centre of Excellence in Laser Scanning Research, Xinlian Liang.

 

Achievements and remaining barriers to TLS-based forest investigations

Terrestrial laser scanning is an effective technique for measuring forest plots. A terrestrial laser scanner automatically documents its surrounding environment in three-dimensional (3D) space with millions to billions of 3D points. The technology is anticipated to be practically used in forest in-situ observations, e.g. national forest inventories.

According to the benchmarking results, TLS is great at extracting forest attributes of trees that are recorded in the point cloud data. These attributes, i.e. diameter at breast height and stem curve estimates, can be measured at 1-2 cm accuracy level which is close to what is required in practical applications, e.g. national forest inventories. Remaining barriers are mainly from the occlusion effects that prevail and hard to eliminate in forests; therefore, attributes of trees such as tree heights are difficult to estimate.

Five criteria extracted from TLS data at the plot- and tree-level
Five criteria extracted from TLS data at the plot- and tree-level. © Centre of Excellence in Laser Scannning Research, Xinlian Liang.

 

Open data on sample plot pointclouds

The single- and multi-TLS data, as well as the reference data, of six sample plots of this benchmarking project can be downloaded from here.

The data is opened to anyone who is interested in TLS based forest investigation for non-commercial use. Since the reference information is also opened, users can evaluate their own feature extraction approaches and results by themselves, and compare their own results with the other results reported in the project publication. When making a publication based on the open data set, please reference the date source of the ISPRS journal paper International benchmarking of terrestrial laser scanning approaches for forest inventories (Liang et al 2018).

Getting ready for operational use

The results of this international benchmarking suggest that TLS as well as sophisticated automated algorithms are ready to be used in practice under easy forest conditions, e.g., forests with good visibility or single trees. The operational use of TLS in forest mensuration is a complex process. The current bottleneck is the lack of practical software and it requires time to develop such software. The emerging mobile and personal laser scanning (MLS/PLS) have the potential to solve the occlusion problems of TLS, but have yet to achieve similar accuracy . It is worth noting that TLS currently provides the best quality terrestrial point clouds in comparison with all other technologies, meaning that all the benchmarks labeled in the benchmarking results can also serve as a reference for other terrestrial point clouds sources.

More information: Research manager Xinlian Liang, firstname.lastname(a)nls.fi

Table of 18 methods used in the benchmarking

 

CoE-LaSR seminar: Laser scanning in forestry – from science to operational applications

Collaboration between researchers from the Department of Forest Sciences (University of Helsinki) and end users from industry, consulting, and governmental organizations, for example, has been one of the main aims when developing forest applications within the Centre of Excellence in Laser Scanning (CoE-LaSR). Department of Forest Sciences organized a seminar for stakeholders to present the latest research and results using laser scanning for precision forestry. The seminar also reached students and other faculty members from the Department of Forest Sciences apart from the researchers of the CoE-LaSR.

Measuring intensity of seedlings of Norway spruce with terrestrial laser scanning. © Centre of Excellence, Samuli Junttila.

 

During the afternoon seminar, recent research related to especially TLS and its application in forest mapping and monitoring were presented. The topics included, among others, identifying dead wood, measuring and modelling tree structure and growth as well as health status and wood quality. Furthermore, presentations included experiences from tree species detection and use of augmented reality for harvester drivers.

Detected dead wood from terrestrial laser scanning data. © Centre of Excellence, Tuomas Yrttimaa.

 

Intriguing discussion between participants and presenters emerged especially towards the end of the seminar which continued with a panel discussion. The panelists represented Natural Resources Institute, the City of Helsinki, Metsähallitus, Tapio, Metsäteho, Stora Enso and Finnish Forestry Center, all utilizing either laser scanning or products based on laser scanning such as forest resource information. The panelists described how they see laser scanning in the field of forestry and forest sciences, and also pointed out where research efforts are still needed. These included improving accuracy of estimates for species-specific forest inventory attributes and tree-size distributions as well as logging recovery. In addition, measuring quality attributes such as branchiness from standing trees was seen as important research topic by forest industry.

Panelists discussing laser scanning and its opportunities in forestry and forest sciences. © Centre of Excellence.
Scroll to top