USDA Forest Service

Forest Health Protection, Southern Region


USDA Forest Service
Forest Health Protection
Region 8
1720 Peachtree Road, NW
Room 816 N
Atlanta, GA 30309

Phone: (404) 347-7478
Fax: (404) 347-1880

United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

USDA Link Forest Service Link


Aerial Survey


  • Digital Aerial Sketchmapping (DASM)
    • DASM systems developed by Forest Health Technology Enterprise team (FHTET) have been used operationally in Region 8 since 2002.
    • Data collected in digital format flows through Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for quick dissemination to co-operators and publics, even when projects are on a landscape scale.
      • Simplifies aerial survey – especially on large-scale surveys
      • More reliable location of damage, quicker turnaround for ground-checking
  • Southern Region is:
    • Using DASM for Forest Health Monitoring Surveys
    • Training National Forest and State Cooperators to use DASM
    • Cooperating with FHTET on upgrades and improvements to DASM
  • Forest Health Monitoring (FHM) Surveys
    • FHP annual overview surveys of National Forest lands, as well as other growing season aerial surveys done by State agencies contribute to total acres flown for FHM.
    • Part of the Forest Health Monitoring Program – coincides with Forest Health Monitoring aerial surveys done by state cooperators

Project Highlights

  • Southern Region is funded to conduct aerial surveys of all National Forest lands region wide; Field office technicians in Asheville, NC and Alexandria, LA carry out this work
  • Since the program began in 2002, these FHP technicians have flown over 110 million acres
  • FHP has responded to request from Federal and State agencies for special survey flights over hurricane and ice storm damaged areas, as well as areas affected by forest insect and disease problems
  • Technological advancements
    • Early DASM systems had hardware components specially crafted by FHTET. Currently there are commercially available rugged tablet PCs, wireless GPS units, and other hardware. FHTET has secured manufacturer’s support for the associated software.
    • FHP has been enhancing mission safety by using Automated Flight Following (AFF) since 2005. As of 2009 AFF was required by the Regional ‘Call When Needed’ (CWN) aircraft contract.
  • All members of the Regional Survey Program are required to stay current in the aviation safety training required for their position (Interagency Aviation Training training matrix). This includes recurrent training at three year intervals.
  • FHP has provided training and support to Federal and State Agencies in aerial survey techniques and aviation safety including the: National Forests in Texas, Alabama and Mississippi; National Park Service in Florida; and State Forestry Agencies in Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Training courses offered include:
    • Aerial Survey Aviation Safety and Management (AS2M
    • “How to” training in Aerial Survey Technique
    • DASM training
  • FHP-R8 maintains strong partnerships with:
    • The FHP Aerial Survey Working Group
    • Regional Fire and Aviation shop
    • National Forest Dispatcher centers
    • Aircraft contractors and pilots
  • What Needs Attention?
    • Helping cooperators acquire DASM and providing training
    • Sharing of FHM surveys and surveys done at the NF District level
    • Training users on equipment and software advancements
      • Finding people who want to fly
      • Use veteran surveyors – develop mentor program Staff training/mentoring-Jim Compton (Asheville) will retire in 2011. To ensure safe and efficient air operations with accurate data collection, an opportunity for training/mentoring his replacement exist in 2011.

Aviation Safey and Planning

These documents are cited as part of FHP Project Level Aviation Safety Plans:

  • FHP Asheville Job Hazard Analysis [PDF] [RTF]
  • FHP Aviation Risk Management Matrix [PDF] [XLS]

Conclusions/Future Directions

  • Between our state cooperators and FHP nearly 100 million acres are surveyed each year
    • Aerial surveys monitor changes on National Forests and detect forest health problems
    • Low cost/acre – FHM and DASM are important assets to the National Forests and States
    • DASM is efficient and effective method of surveying – current and future technology will ensure quality survey data

FHP Contacts

  • Rusty Rhea
    • Entomologist – Asheville FO Unit Aviation Safety Manager/FHM Project Coordinator
  • Ed Yockey
    • Geographic Information System Specialist – Asheville Field Office
  • Aerial Survey Teams and FHP Contacts
    • Asheville Field Office – Jim Compton
    • Alexandria Field Office – Chris Steiner and Billy Bruce

Author: Rusty Rhea --Address: Forest Service-USDA, 200 Weaver Blvd. Asheville, NC 28804; Phone: 828-257-4314; Email:

For further information please visit our website:


Updated: February 2010


USDA Forest Service - Forest Health Protection, Southern Region
Last Modified: Monday, 16 December 2013 at 14:18:29 CST

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.