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Data from: Flying high: Sampling savanna vegetation with UAV-lidar


Boucher, Peter; Hockridge, Evan; Singh, Jenia; Davies, Andrew (2023), Data from: Flying high: Sampling savanna vegetation with UAV-lidar, Dryad, Dataset,


The flexibility of UAV-lidar remote sensing offers a myriad of new opportunities for savanna ecology, enabling researchers to measure vegetation structure at a variety of temporal and spatial scales. However, this flexibility also increases the number of customizable variables, such as flight altitude, pattern, and sensor parameters, that, when adjusted, can impact data quality as well as the applicability of a dataset to a specific research interest.
To better understand the impacts that UAV flight patterns and sensor parameters have on vegetation metrics, we compared 7 lidar point clouds collected with a Riegl VUX-1LR over a 300 x 300 m area in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. We varied the altitude (60 m above ground, 100 m, 180 m, and 300 m) and sampling pattern (slowing the flight speed, increasing the overlap between flightlines, and flying a crosshatch pattern), and compared a variety of vertical vegetation metrics related to height and fractional cover.
Comparing vegetation metrics from acquisitions with different flight patterns and sensor parameters, we found that both flight altitude and pattern had significant impacts on derived structure metrics, with variation in altitude causing the largest impacts. Flying higher resulted in lower point cloud heights, leading to a consistent downward trend in percentile height metrics and fractional cover. The magnitude and direction of these trends also varied depending on the vegetation type sampled (trees, shrubs, or grasses), showing that the structure and composition of savanna vegetation can interact with the lidar signal and alter derived metrics. While there were statistically significant differences in metrics among acquisitions, the average differences were often on the order of a few centimeters or less, which shows great promise for future comparison studies.
We discuss how these results apply in practice, explaining the potential trade-offs of flying at higher altitudes and alternating flight pattern. We highlight how flight and sensor parameters can be geared toward specific ecological applications and vegetation types, and we explore future opportunities for optimizing UAV-lidar sampling designs in savannas.

Usage notes

The point cloud files (LAS files) were denoised and classified (Default: Class 1, Ground: 2, Noise: 7, HighScanAngles: 10) using the Terrasolid software suite. The point clouds can be input into the VoxelMetrics pipeline in Lidar-Notebooks ( to recreate all of the metrics reported in Boucher et al. (2023; Flying High: Sampling Savanna Vegetation with UAV-lidar). The CHM and DTM raster files (GeoTIFF files) used in Boucher et al. (2023) are also available for download.


Harvard University