When most of us think about technology and the environment, we often associate the rise of technology with the decline of the environment. However, STEM can provide solutions to tackling the environmental issues our world is facing today.

In our last blog, we discussed forests – their importance, and the dangers we face due to their deforestation and degradation. In this blog, we’ll be discussing how STEM is being used to tackle these issues.

One example of technology being used to protect our forests is light detection and ranging, or LiDAR. This method of remote sensing works by having a sensor emit pulsed waves of light into its surrounding environment. Then, the pulses bounce off any surrounding objects and return to the sensor. The sensor records the time it took for each pulse to return to calculate how far it traveled. This process is carried out millions of times per second.

LiDAR combines this information with position and orientation data from an integrated GPS. This allows for the creation of a detailed group of elevation points called a point cloud.  Each point is a 3-D coordinate (latitude, longitude, and height) that corresponds to a specific point that the light pulse reflected from. These point clouds allow us to create models of things like buildings, forest canopy covers, and more.

To map large areas, LIDAR sensors are typically strapped to aircrafts. Below is a LiDAR model taken from a survey aircraft of the Loggerhead Key Lighthouse in Dry Tortugas, Florida.


Image Source: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/lidar.html

While LiDAR has applications in various industries, it can also be used to help the environment. Some innovative examples of LiDAR being utilized to protect the environment include…

                  • Mapping suitable habitats for specific species
                  • Monitoring forest cover
                  • Assessing the flooding risk of various areas

To learn about the ecological uses of LiDAR, check out this report from the World Wildlife Fund.

Just this year, a new ecological LiDAR project has kicked off. Blue Forest is using LiDAR and other remote sensing technologies to identify areas in urgent need of reforestation. Once they collect their data, they use AI technology to analyze it and design reforestation plans. Currently, they specialize in reforesting mangroves, and they’re working with the Ministry of the Sea in Mozambique to restore 185,000 hectares of mangroves among two highly biodiversity- sensitive provinces in the country. The long-term goal of the project is to plant 50 – 100 million trees.


Image Source: https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/plants-algae/mangroves-photos-plants-and-animals

Curious about other ways LiDAR has helped the environment and people? Check out this article showcasing other applications of LiDAR technology.