Parrot Education Blog



Parrot and Pix4D partnered with the research group of Dr. Todd Dawson, faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, to promote innovation and the use of drone technology in measuring and monitoring forest ecosystems.


Todd Dawson

The record-setting drought in California has killed more than 60 million trees

over the past few years. There is significant concern by scientists on how these die-offs will impact the Sierra Nevada mountains, particularly the stands of iconic giant sequoia trees.

The project is taking a novel approach in studying the architecture and hydraulics, or how water flows, through the massive sequoia trees. The goal is to better understand how individual sequoias have survived for centuries and how they will continue to survive in the future under a changing climate.


“This is a fascinating collaboration for us,” says Dr. Gregory Crutsinger, who leads Scientific Programs for Parrot. “We are combining skill sets of scientific research and professional tree climbing to map the interior structure of a tree crown with cutting-edge drone technology to scan the outside.  Together, we have an amazing 3-dimensional dataset that is unique to the world!”.

There are fields that traditionally worked in 2D, however they belong to a 3D world. For this project we have developed a tool to look at the trees like they have never seen before, we wanted to bring the power of multispectral imagery to a whole new level, and we think we did being able to create 3D NDVI point cloud of these trees,” says Jorge Fernandez, Solution Manager for Agriculture at Pix4D.

Climbing trees with ropes and harnesses is a dangerous and time-consuming endeavor. The team is comparing how much canopy data can be captured by quickly and safely using drone imagery to create 3D models  in Pix4D software,  relative to the days and weeks it takes canopy scientists now to map the trees by hand.


“Tackling a huge and critically important issue like climate change requires research that leads to solutions,” says Dr. Dawson. “Drones, with their new on-board sensor packages, are powerful new tools that will allow us to look very closely at single trees but then really pull back and look at how an entire forest is responding too, in both time and over space.”

“Generating high-resolution photogrammetric 3D models and indexes of vegetation has been on our minds for a long time,” says Lorenzo Martelletti, Sales & Marketing Director of Pix4D. “We truly hope we can provide Dr. Dawson and scientists around the world with a new tool for knowledge.”

You can learn more about Todd and his lab group here.

You can learn more about what Pix4D has done for this project here.


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