ARAUCO Relies on Trimble Harrier Mapping System for the World’s Largest Forestry Inventory Project

PROJECT: Premier aerial mapping service provider Digimapas Chile (DMCL) uses Trimble geospatial technology for massive client forest monitoring project in Latin America

Project highlights:
  • Top foresty company, ARAUCO, selects Digimapas Chile (DMCL) and Trimble to produce high-resolution and high-precision elevation models in combination with digital imagery for forest planning
  • 7.5 million hectares (75,000 sq. km) of forestland was mapped at an accuracy scale of 1:2000 using Trimble Harrier – an airborne imaging and laser scanning system
  • Approximately 10 percent of Chilean territory was successfully mapped in just three years
  • The team delivered high-precision spatial data including digital surface and terrain elevation models, high-resolution imagery, 16 bit laser intensity data, and both RGB (red, green, blue) as well as CIR (colored infrared) orthoimages
  • Access to current terrain topography data improves ARAUCO’s ability to make strategic decisions about property investments
  • Laser scanner elevation models also support smarter infrastructure and road planning, slope analysis, harvesting, environmental impact analysis, fire detection and prevention, and more

Today forestry management enterprises rely on current, highly-accurate inventory information to make critical decisions related to their land and plantation projects. Traditional forest inventory methodologies, such as inspections and terrestrial surveys, have proven too costly and inaccurate for today’s complex projects.

No company understands these challenges better than ARAUCO, the world’s second largest cellulose producer.

The organization continues to look for sustainable forest management and harvesting strategies that will increase the quality, productivity and performance of its plantations. In 2006 faced with a substantial forestry monitoring and inventory initiative, the company turned to spatial imaging expert Digimapas Chile (DMCL) for help.

ARAUCO selected Digimapas to capture, process and map aerial data for a significant section of forested area in Chile. To accomplish these far-reaching project goals, the Digimapas Chile team selected the Trimble Harrier 56 Mapping System. Trimble Harrier incorporates a full waveform airborne laser scanner, two Trimble Aerial Cameras, and an Applanix POS AV position and orientation system. The solution also includes integrated laser scanning software and pre- and post-processing capabilities, streamlining the workflow from pre-flight planning and data capture to final deliverables.

Over the company’s history, Digimapas has mapped on average more than 25,000 sq. km per year at an accuracy scale of 1:2000.

During the course of this project, Digimapas Chile used Trimble Harrier to effectively map 7.5 million hectares (75,000 sq. km), or approximately 10 percent of the Chilean territory. The team can produce and deliver approximately 450,000 hectares (4,500 sq. km) of images a month. In addition, on a weekly basis the team delivered digital terrain and surface models with one meter post spacing, laser scanner intensity images and waveform data, as well as true orthoimages in RGB and CIR.

“We couldn’t do what we do for clients without Trimble Harrier,” said Dr. Rombach, general manager of Digimapas. “The system delivered from Trimble also includes software that manages pre- and post-processing, including straight through to the delivery of digital surface and digital terrain models and true-digital orthos.”

With support from Digimapas Chile and Trimble, the ARAUCO team was able to determine key forest characteristics directly from the laser scanner and image data such as: the classification of trees, timber volume and growth, the height of single trees, tree diameter and density, and more.
“ARAUCO is extremely happy with the excellent quality of the data and high-resolution ground models we’ve produced with Trimble,” said Dr. Rombach.

Sergio Gonzalez, project manager at ARAUCO in charge of the laser scanner and orthophoto mapping, said accurate spatial information is critical to their business.

“After considerable research, we determined airborne laser scanning and digital photography were the right choice for this type of natural resources project both in terms of meeting our high-accuracy requirements and keeping costs in line,” said Gonzalez.

For ARAUCO, the benefits of the Trimble Harrier are significant. Specifically, ground models enable the team to perform in-depth slope analysis of the forest, evaluate hydrological drainage options, as well as support road planning and engineering efforts.

Digital terrain models from laser scanning give harvest managers the ability to more effectively plan operations, including identifying appropriate machinery that can be used to extract trees given the slope of the land.

In addition, Gonzalez asserts the team can optimize wood extraction techniques in order to maximize product quality and profitability as well as to ensure the health and sustainability of forests.

“The reliability of Trimble Harrier is extremely important to our business,” said Dr. Rombach. “We’ve used the system more than 5,000 hours in the last three years in various planes and helicopters—no other system I’ve seen is able to produce such highly-accurate, georeferenced digital imagery on such a consistent basis.”

In addition, Dr. Rombach also appreciates the responsiveness and collaborative spirit of the Trimble support team.

“If we ever encounter a problem with the system or have suggestions about improvements, we get on the phone with support and within days, or even hours, we’ve got a resolution,” said Rombach. “With help from Trimble we’ve built a strong reputation as a top spatial information company for forestry, mining and infrastructure companies and we plan to continue expanding our business.”

For more information contact: Trimble GeoSpatial; 720-587-4905, Dr. Markus Rombach, Director Digimapas Chile,

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