Inter-comparison of remote sensing platforms for height estimation of mango and avocado tree crowns

Dan Wu, Kasper Johansen, Stuart Phinn, Andrew Robson, Yu-Hsuan Tu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


To support the adoption of precision agricultural practices in horticultural tree crops, prior research has investigated the relationship between crop vigour (height, canopy density, health) as measured by remote sensing technologies, to fruit quality, yield and pruning requirements. However, few studies have compared the accuracy of different remote sensing technologies for the estimation of tree height. In this study, we evaluated the accuracy, flexibility, aerial coverage and limitations of five techniques to measure the height of two types of horticultural tree crops, mango and avocado trees. Canopy height estimates from Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) were used as a reference dataset against height estimates from Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) data, WorldView-3 (WV-3) stereo imagery, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) based RGB and multi-spectral imagery, and field measurements. Overall, imagery obtained from the UAV platform were found to provide tree height measurement comparable to that from the TLS (R2 = 0.89, RMSE = 0.19 m and rRMSE = 5.37 % for mango trees; R2 = 0.81, RMSE = 0.42 m and rRMSE = 4.75 % for avocado trees), although coverage area is limited to 1–10 km2 due to battery life and line-of-sight flight regulations. The ALS data also achieved reasonable accuracy for both mango and avocado trees (R2 = 0.67, RMSE = 0.24 m and rRMSE = 7.39 % for mango trees; R2 = 0.63, RMSE = 0.43 m and rRMSE = 5.04 % for avocado trees), providing both optimal point density and flight altitude, and therefore offers an effective platform for large areas (10 km2–100 km2). However, cost and availability of ALS data is a consideration. WV-3 stereo imagery produced the lowest accuracies for both tree crops (R2 = 0.50, RMSE = 0.84 m and rRMSE = 32.64 % for mango trees; R2 = 0.45, RMSE = 0.74 m and rRMSE = 8.51 % for avocado trees) when compared to other remote sensing platforms, but may still present a viable option due to cost and commercial availability when large area coverage is required. This research provides industries and growers with valuable information on how to select the most appropriate approach and the optimal parameters for each remote sensing platform to assess canopy height for mango and avocado trees.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102091
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
StatePublished - Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-02-24
Acknowledgements: The authors acknowledge the Australian Federal Government ‘Rural R&D for Profit’ scheme and Horticulture Innovation Australia for funding this Research. The authors appreciate the support provided for this research by Dr Chris Searle and Simpson Farms Pty. Ltd. (Childers, QLD 4660, Australia), in particular, Chad Simpson. The authors would also like to thank Dr Peter Scarth for suggestions.


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