The tree of the future could be equipped with vitality sensors and thus contribute to a forest early warning system. It could provide dynamic and up-to-date warnings of damage caused by droughts and pests or of a fire hazard. A research team from the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences is currently working on such an early warning system in an interdisciplinary way. It is based on 5G.
Within the framework of the 5G project application »Smart Country« of the districts Wolfenbüttel and Helmstedt, the researchers:innen are currently working on application cases for the forest and forestry sector. There is a close exchange between different disciplines of the university as well as with the Chamber of Agriculture of Lower Saxony, the Lower Saxony State Forests, the Foundation Future Forest and the Thuenen Institute.
Forest inventory done easy
Under the term »Smart Forestry«, the sub-concept focuses on various areas of application that can be realized using 5G. With the help of this technology, the inventory of forest areas could be raised to a level of quality that has not been achieved so far. The forest stand, its condition, its vitality and its planning are today recorded and monitored using various methods. For example, inspections, counts, aerial photographs and drone flights. 5G offers new possibilities. With high ranges and low power consumption, it allows, for example, the use of self-sufficient sensors, according to the research team.
The tree tells how it feels
The idea is simple: basically, each tree should tell how it is doing in real time about the measurements it delivers. Is it too dry, too damp, too cold or too hot? Are there first signs of bark beetles? What about the soil in which it roots? What is the ambient air like?
Using a 5G data network, the data currently collected on the tree is to be fed directly into a platform called »Data Lake«. Prof. Dr. Ina Schiering from the Faculty of Computer Science is particularly concerned with the processes, data quality and data security - the so-called data governance. »It's all about how we can intelligently analyse the large amount of data, manage it securely and prepare it in a targeted manner for different uses,« she explains.
Further possible usages planned
In this context, the researchers are focusing on two further possibilities for using 5G technology:
On the one hand, there is the possibility of expanding the forest as an information system and learning location and to process the digitally recorded data of the forest sensors in such a way that the forest tells its visitors »digital stories« - whether they are walking, hiking or jogging. For example via digital information boards, a website or an app. The use of augmented reality glasses is also being considered. The researchers want to use the technology to provide a virtual view of the inner life of an anthill or a tree trunk. Especially projects such as the School Forests against Climate Change or the Lion Path in Lechlum Wood gain additional attractiveness and clarity with such new possibilities.
On the other hand, the concept aims at networked wood harvesting. Here, it is planned that wood harvesting machines, as central devices in the harvesting process, will transmit data on the available raw material wood in real time. This will enable forestry operations, sawmills and traders to adjust the planned harvest quantities or further processing purposes to the actual wood qualities and dimensions recorded on site by the networked harvesting device on an ad hoc basis. Experimental areas for this purpose are planned in the state forest of the Lechlumer Holz and in the private forest of the Lucklum manor. »If we monitor the forest dynamically and up-to-date as an important carbon dioxide storage and raw material supplier, this can help us to react more quickly to requirements such as climate influences, pest infestation and market conditions in forestry,« says Friedrich Hanstein from the Lower Saxony Forest Planning Office.