Lumberjacks go digital

Thu, Apr 5, 2012, 01:00

SMALL PRINT:CORK-BASED company TreeMetrics is set to harness satellite communications technology to help foresters get more timber from fewer trees.

The company, which was founded in 2005, has already developed a laser-based system that can physically measure trees in a forest and predict the timber content. The system then represents that information in a web platform that allows the forest manager to “virtually saw” and plan a strategy for felling so that there’s less wastage.

The TreeMetrics system is already being used by clients around the world. The “cut” instructions are sent to harvesting machines, and their operators to tell them how to harvest the forest. While the machines are cutting they also measure the trees, explains TreeMetrics co-founder Garret Mullooly.

Now the company is working with the European Space Agency on the Satmodo project, which will put a device on board harvesting machines to transmit real-time information about the trees that are being felled.

The details would be relayed back to foresters through ESA’s Inmarsat IsatM2M satellite and communications system. It means that forest managers could further refine their cutting strategies quickly if needed, and change the instructions for the harvesting machines. “It is a proactive approach instead of a reactive approach,” says Mullooly.

TreeMetrics has hired three new people for the Satmodo project, and the plan is to field test the approach in around 20 to 25 harvesting machines this summer in Ireland and the UK.