In recent years, LIght Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) and especially Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) systems have shown the potential to revolutionise forest structural characterisation by providing unprecedented 3D data. However, manned Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) requires costly campaigns and produces relatively low point density, while TLS is labour intense and time demanding. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)-borne laser scanning can be the way in between. In this study, we present first results and experiences with the RIEGL RiCOPTER with VUX ®
-1UAV ALS system and compare it with the well tested RIEGL VZ-400 TLS system. We scanned the same forest plots with both systems over the course of two days. We derived Digital Terrain Model (DTMs), Digital Surface Model (DSMs) and finally Canopy Height Model (CHMs) from the resulting point clouds. ALS CHMs were on average 11.5 cm
higher in five plots with different canopy conditions. This showed that TLS could not always detect the top of canopy. Moreover, we extracted trunk segments of 58 trees for ALS and TLS simultaneously, of which 39 could be used to model Diameter at Breast Height (DBH). ALS DBH showed a high agreement with TLS DBH with a correlation coefficient of 0.98 and root mean square error of 4.24 cm
. We conclude that RiCOPTER has the potential to perform comparable to TLS for estimating forest canopy height and DBH under the studied forest conditions. Further research should be directed to testing UAV-borne LiDAR for explicit 3D modelling of whole trees to estimate tree volume and subsequently Above-Ground Biomass (AGB).