Woodland heritage: Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) surveys

About LiDAR

Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) uses airborne laser systems to map the surface of landscape. This technique also works well for many wooded areas, because the laser beam can potentially penetrate the woodland canopy and reach the forest floor. LiDAR can therefore create 3D models of the ground as if all the trees are removed.

Read more detail about lidar technologies and techniques

Map and compass - Wyre Forest LiDAR model of Forest of Dean Example of LiDAR data converted into a 3-D format Surface model of Wilsontown Ironworks

Lidar can successfully reveal many archaeological features and historical details obscured by tree cover and long-hidden from aerial surveys.

Forest Research is the UK’s leading organisation for this specialist form of survey. Since 2004 we have carried out over 30 lidar surveys across the UK, helping to identify some of the country’s most significant, recent discoveries.

Our success stems from a unique understanding of how trees and vegetation influence the effectiveness and interpretation of lidar surveys. This experience gives us skills to generate the best quality images of forest floors possible and provide sound survey advice.

Although many other organisations offer basic lidar surveys, we provide a comprehensive package with full support and specialist woodland advice.

What we do

  • Scoping, project development and survey specifications (covering site suitability and quality of any existing data)
  • Data capture, with necessary adjustments depending on woodland characteristics
  • Storage and archive of data
  • Specialist image processing (using our unique combinations of hillshaded, statistical, aspect, slope and elevation data and expert adjustments based on canopy cover)
  • Provision of GIS-ready material
  • Rapid archaeological and ecological surveys (on sample areas) to aid data interpretation
  • Production of ‘map books’ of the entire survey area, showing detailed composite images derived from our unique visualisation methods
  • Initial analysis, presentation and hand-over of data
  • Video fly-through animations
  • Production of stereo and anaglyph images for use with viewing glasses
  • Training on data use and advice on IT requirements
  • Conversion of data into an alternative proprietary 3D format for dissemination with a free viewer

We can deliver our surveys as a project contractor, or act as your main project manager. We are happy to support your project with additional advice on suitable forest management and heritage protection techniques.

Features and benefits

  • Expertise: 10 years  of heritage-based lidar surveys in woodlands and forests, with active involvement in over 30 projects including intensive (1 square kilometre) and large-scale (500 square kilometres) mapping
  • Forest knowledge: unique understanding of how the forest canopy affects lidar scans and specialist methods to generate the highest quality images possible
  • Partnership benefits: good working relationships with several lidar survey companies and access to the latest technological developments means our service will meet your precise requirements
  • Quality assured: as a government research organisation we meet the strict quality criteria for science and research set out in the Joint Code of Practice for Research
  • Personal touch: direct access to our experts means you can discuss your requirements, obtain advice and receive an appropriate, value for money service
  • Research active: we have studied heritage-forest interactions, led site monitoring initiatives and can advise on management and conservation techniques

Costs and charges

We customise our service to meet your specific needs and deliver best value for money – please get in touch.

Ask for a free initial consultation to discuss your project and explore how our services can support your work.


For more about the services offered or to discuss your requirements contact:

Peter Crow
Sue Benham