Mapping Fine-Scale Crown Scorch in 3D with Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems

Christopher J. Moran, Valentijn Hoff, Russell A. Parsons, Lloyd P. Queen, Carl A. Seielstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) are providing fresh perspectives for the remote sensing of fire. One opportunity is mapping tree crown scorch following fires, which can support science and management. This proof-of-concept shows that crown scorch is distinguishable from uninjured canopy in point clouds derived from low-cost RGB and calibrated RGB-NIR cameras at fine resolutions (centimeter level). The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) provided the most discriminatory spectral data, but a low-cost RGB camera provided useful data as well. Scorch heights from the point cloud closely matched field measurements with a mean absolute error of 0.52 m (n = 29). Voxelization of the point cloud, using a simple threshold NDVI classification as an example, provides a suitable dataset worthy of application and further research. Field-measured scorch heights also showed a relationship to RPAS-thermal-camera-derived fire radiative energy density (FRED) estimates with a Spearman rank correlation of 0.43, but there are many issues still to resolve before robust inference is possible. Mapping fine-scale scorch in 3D with RPAS and SfM photogrammetry is a viable, low-cost option that can support related science and management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number59
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • UAS
  • UAV
  • drones
  • fire effects
  • photogrammetry
  • prescribed fire
  • vegetation mapping


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