The ECHIDNA® Validation Instrument

The ECHIDNA® Validation Instrument

ECHIDNA: ground-based laser scanning

CSIRO researchers have developed an innovative, ground-based laser scanning system to assess forest structure.

  • 4 September 2008 | Updated 14 October 2011

ECHIDNA™ is an innovative, ground-based scanning lidar instrument concept developed by CSIRO to characterise forest structure from a point on the forest floor. 

The instrument scans a full hemisphere above the setup point, providing data that can be used for estimates of wood volume, stem form, biomass and canopy architecture.

ECHIDNA™ can also be used to calibrate airborne lidar data, with the synergy of these data providing a method for broad scale forest structure mapping.

ECHIDNA™ will enable forest managers to measure plot-based forest structure with unprecedented detail.

Instrument design

The ECHIDNA™ Validation Instrument (EVI) is the first fully functional prototype ECHIDNA™ system.

It is a research prototype and is being used to validate the ECHIDNA™ concept and to define specifications for a simpler, more portable commercial instrument. 

Such an instrument will enable forest managers to measure plot-based forest structure with unprecedented detail and to provide a permanent record of a forest’s three-dimensional structure at a given growth stage.

How does it work?

The EVI emits a pulse of laser energy and the intensity of return is recorded as a function of distance from the instrument. This 'waveform' of returns provides information on the density of the forest in any given direction.

The EVI scans over the full hemisphere above the instrument, recording waveforms for every direction in the hemisphere.

The resulting dataset is spatially located by the direction of the beam and the measured distance from the instrument, creating a truly three-dimensional dataset.

How is it helpful?

The ECHIDNA™ concept has been developed to provide an objective and repeatable method for characterising forest structure at the scale of standard forest inventory plots. 

The recorded data adds value to conventional forest surveys by allowing rapid measurement of a wide range of structural attributes. The data can easily be reprojected in various ways for visual and algorithmic interpretation. 

A single scan provides a permanent record of the forest structure at a given moment in time and can be interrogated at a later date to determine cause and effect relationships, such as factors contributing to yield variations or quantifying the impact of pests or disease.

Additionally, the estimates present the perfect basis for evaluating allometric relationships that may exist for a given region, forest species and age class.

Such relationships can be used in conjunction with airborne data to create detailed forest maps for broad scale site quality, wood volume and biomass assessments.

For further information about ECHIDNA™, please contact Dr David Jupp ( or Dr Darius Culvenor (

Learn more about 3-PG productivity modelling.

ECHIDNA™ is a trademark of CSIRO Australia.