Guidelines for the forestry industry

Tools For Foresters aim to produce best practice guidelines for the forestry industry. Our standard operating procedures (SOPs) are developed through our Application Incubator, where our processes start out life as an idea, develop through internal ideation and research, and are then passed onto our beta-testing team. From here they are tested in the field until they are ready to be offered as a Tool for industry users.

Geospatial Tools

Scion's spatial outputs

On Scion’s koordinates page you can find links to spatial layers, created by Scion, for things such as Dothistroma prevalence across NZ.

Access to further spatial layers such as the spatial variability of radiata pine and redwood productivity can be requested through this link.

Here are a few open source tools that we recommend for people who want to work with spatial data:

CloudCompare is a must-have tool for anybody working with point cloud data. This allows users to manipulate and visualise pointclouds clouds in 3D in a way that isn’t possible using standard GIS packages. There are a number of online tutorials for how to work with data on this GUI-based point cloud software. It is free:

lidR  is one of the foremost lidar analysis packages for forestry. This R-based software package allows for a range of operations, such as normalising, denoising and generating canopy height models from point clouds, as well as deriving tree-level or stand level metrics. There is also very good online documentation for its use:

The Pirate Forest software directory
This recently compiled list of open-source, forestry specific tools is extremely comprehensive, offering a range of packages for various coding platforms, including R and python, to enable foresters to carry out a range of analyses from deriving metrics from lidar data to analysing raster imagery:
A useful application for developing metrics on forest stands from point clouds. This R package runs on R's Shiny platform, allowing for a more user-friendly experience for those who are not well adapted to coding:

Anybody working with spatial data needs a robust platform to work with the data. An Open Source GIS option which is incredibly useful, continuously developed and improved, and freely available is QGIS:

Flight Controller Apps

Here is an assortment of flight controller apps for UAV use that we highly recommend. At this stage the list is tailored to DJI crafts only, if there is a desire for additional makes of craft this list will expand to encompass the need:

General Flight and reconnaissance

DJI Go/Go4 -
(IOS and Android)
Download through App Store or Google Play
This app is freely available to download for DJI Users and enable full flight control, capturing video and still images, and programming intelligent flight modes (TapFly, ActiveTrack etc). Great for reconnaissance, eye-in-the-sky type flights.

DJI Pilot -
IOS and Android
DJI Pilot can be used with DJI's Range of Thermal cameras too
Download through App Store or Google Play
This app is freely available to download for DJI Users and enable full flight control, capturing video and still images, and programming intelligent flight modes (TapFly, ActiveTrack etc). Great for reconnaissance, eye-in-the-sky type flights.


DJI GS Pro (Ground Station Pro) -
(iPad IOS only)
Free (with restrictions), Pro has an annual cost
Another diverse, tablet-based flight controller app. With features like virtual fence (to create a maximum limit to your UAV mission), 3D map and waypoint mission flight. As this is a DJI app, you can do things in this app, such as compass calibrations or checking battery voltage that you can’t do in some third-party apps.

Map Pilot - (IOS only)
Free (with restrictions), Pro US$150/year (
A very useful app that allows for easy creation of functional mapping flights without the need for a desktop. Works with a number of DJI craft ( Really handy features can be purchased with the Pro package and include Terrain Awareness using the SRTM dataset (practically an essential feature for forestry), for safer flights and even GSD calculation, and flights can be generated in standard, double grid or linear patterns. KML can be imported to aid in flight planning.

UgCS (Ultimate Ground Control Software) -
(IOS and Android - Desktop required for flight planning)
From US$600 per year – packages can eb found here:
Highly versatile flight controller app for designing various autonomous missions, including mapping or surveillance. If you can think of something you want a UAV to do, you can almost guarantee that this app can do it. This app features terrain following using the SRTM or import your own DTM for highly accurate terrain following. Also a highly useful feature for lidar missions is the ability to incorporate banking turns rather than right angles (ensures minimal disruption to the IMU on turns).  This app offers the ability to design all flights in a 3D GIS-style GUI on a desktop and store flight plans in project folders. KMLs can also be imported to aid in design of flight plans.

Full Motion Video (FMV)

Site Scan for Arc GIS - (iPad IOS only)
The Site Scan Flight app is an iPad flight planning and control application for drone operators. The app allows users to plan automated flights in 2D or 3D, using data from ArcGIS to help design their flight plans. The app includes several capabilities for flight paths (area surveys, corridor, panoramas, inspection, etc), integration with ArcGIS QuickCapture for data capture, and exporting a video file for full motion video. There are two versions of the app:

  • The Site Scan Flight App LE (Limited Edition) version is free to download, requiring an ArcGIS online organisational account. All capabilities are the same as the full version, except for the cloud connection and upload of imagery (manual export required).
  • The Site Scan Flight App (Full) is a fully integrated cloud solution to connect to Site Scan Manager (for processing and fleet management) and uploading images.

Tag Pilot - (IOS only)
Free to download, however, required a Maps Made Easy subscription for the terrain awareness to work (i.e. need to have Map Pilot Pro). Additional costs for thermal add-on too.
From Maps Made Easy (the creators of the popular Map Pilot App), this app enables users to create 3D waypoints on-the-fly integrating augmented reality with the live UAV video stream for reconnaissance flights. This can be useful for gaining approximate locations of areas of interest (i.e. Location of weeds, dead trees, disease, areas to inspect on foot etc). Also features a thermal extension (at an additional cost) that can be used in conjunction with a Download through App Store

Flight Planning and Management Applications

AirData -
Variety of subscription plans (including a free version) and scalable based on fleet size (
Comprehensive drone fleet and flight log management operations platform.
Automated Data centre linked to individual craft and batteries
Pilot and equipment management including audit trails
Syncs to a wide variety of flight control applications on both IOS and Android, including DJI Go, Dronedeploy and Map Pilot to name a few

Airshare -
Online portal and mobile app
This app is an essential for all UAV pilots in NZ. This app is excellent for flight planning, allowing you to keep a record of your UAV operations. It contains some basic information, including contact details, for flight planning around areas that are restricted for UAV flying, and also is the official method for requesting permission to fly within controlled airspace.

AvPlan EFB -
IOS and Android
$149 per year
This is one of the most useful apps for flight planning. This app gives you access to NZ’s visual navigation charts (VNCs) which are the maps used by aviators, as well as the NZ AIP – giving you full information to all NZs aviation planning documentation and relevant regulations needed to plan flights. This should be considered an essential for anybody using UAVs safely in NZ.

Site Scan (Manager) for ArcGIS - Site Scan for ArcGIS | Drone Mapping & Analytics Software in the Cloud (

Web Browser App/Component of full Site Scan solutions including the Site Flight App.

Site Scan Manager is a web-based application that includes an administrative dashboard for managing users, drone fleets, flight histories, incidents, maintenance and project permissions, available to users with admin privileges. This app directly connects through the cloud to the Site Scan Flight App (Full version).

Photogrammetric Software

In 2022, Scion completed research comparing different photogrammetric software packages. Here are a few solutions that we recommend:

Desktop solutions

Agisoft Metashape
Formerly Agisoft Photoscan
Pay per use available. Annual subscriptions from US$6736, other packages available from

Arguably the most commonly used software for many areas of biological sciences research and consistently top-rated photogrammetric package. Scion’s recent research paper found this to be in the top 4 software packages for accurate recreation of tree heights. Arguably a little less user-friendly than Pix4D but allows for greater parameterisation. Excellent online documentation, works with RGB, multispectral or thermal imagery and a large global following – a very safe choice for people wanting a solid photogrammetry package.

ArcGIS Drone2Map -
ArcGIS Drone2Map is a desktop drone mapping application to process imagery from any drone immediately after a flight, even in offline environments. This tool creates high-resolution 2D and 3D mapping products from any drone imagery. The software also included analysis tools to quickly take measurements and extract insights, as well as a connection to an ArcGIS Online or Enterprise portal with publishing abilities. Drone2Map Standard allows users to generate 2D drone mapping products.Drone2Map Advanced lets users generate 2D and 3D drone mapping products.

ESRI Drone2Map
Annual packages available - Part of the ESRI suite, contact your ESRI dealer about adding this to your ESRI subscription.
Powered by Pix4D, this software offers a completely integrated photogrammetric package within your existing ESRI suite. As this software runs Pix4D under the hood it offers much the same capabilities and outputs as Pix4DMapper.

Pix4DMapper -
Annual subscription US$3500, other packages available at:
This software is consistently rated as one of the top photogrammetric packages on the market. Scion’s recent research paper found this to be the best software package for accurate recreation of tree heights. Very good online documentation and a user-friendly interface for creating photogrammetric outputs, viewing and analysing pointclouds. Also works with multispectral and thermal imagery.

Cloud-based solutions

Pay as you go and subscription options available From $US1989 per year, with pay-as-you-go options offering more flexibility. Payment options available from as little as $50 per year at
This software is being used by a number of forestry companies, and performed very well in Scion’s recent publication, giving the second best results after Pix4D for reconstruction of tree heights from photogrammetry. This convenient online platform integrates with the Map Pilot flight controller app and offers the benefit of moving computational load from your machine to the cloud.

Pix4D Cloud -
From $US1989 per year, other packages available at
This is a cloud-based version of Pix4D. This offers a very similar range of tools to Pix4D, but being cloud based it frees up your computers processing power by running all the processing on an offsite server. There are a few differences – there are no options for multi-camera or video inputs on the cloud version, and some of the outputs available in the desktop version are not available in the cloud (DTM.tif, contour lines, thermal maps and fly-through videos of models). The software does have a few additions that the desktop doesn’t allow though, including Automatic GCP marking, CAD overlay and orthomosaic comparison. Though the key benefit seems to be freeing up computing on your machine, a full comparison of features can be found here:

Site Scan (Manager) for ArcGIS - Site Scan for ArcGIS | Drone Mapping & Analytics Software in the Cloud (

Web Browser App/Component of full Site Scan solutions including the Site Flight App.Site Scan for ArcGIS is cloud-based drone mapping software that provides an end-to-end solution for imagery collection, processing into 2D and 3D products, and analysis. Site Scan Manager can process imagery in a scalable cloud environment (meaning unlimited storage) and share products to ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Enterprise, and Autodesk BIM 360.

Open source solutions

There are open source options available, but the majority rely on some coding ability, and we have not gotten out teeth into them yet to see which ones hold promise for capturing our forests in 3D.

If this is something that would interest you, why not put in a Research Request. When we have enough requests we will move this into the Application Incubator to start the research process.