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T&D > Programs Areas > Forest Management > Introduction to Helicopter Marking Program Areas
Introduction to Helicopter Marking

UAP Timberland has developed a helicopter marking system called TimberMark. This system was demonstrated on a Forest Service timber sale in Oregon. A review of the system will be presented here. The system is new technology and an evolving process. Improvements are being made rapidly. Therefore this information should only be used as an introduction. If this system appears to be something that may suit your local needs you should contact the company directly for the most recent information. Cost data will not be presented here because of the significant variability of costs related to volume of work, terrain, location, and improvements to the system. UAP Timberland should be contacted (see end of document for contact information) for an estimate of the cost for specific projects.


The TimberMark system is used to delineate boundaries. This is accomplished very quickly using a helicopter. Unit boundaries are painted and GPS'ed in one step. A pressurized tank of paint is suspended from the helicopter. Distance between marks and volume of paint applied can be programmed in to the system or manually controlled from the helicopter. The paint (specifically designed for this system) is sprayed down through the crown to the ground. A short demonstration video can be viewed now (Click Here) or at the end of this document.

Helicopter with spray unit suspended.
Fig 1. Spray unit being filled with paint and pressurized.

Spray unit being filled with paint and pressurized.
Fig 2. Helicopter with spray unit suspended.


The TimberMark system may be cost-prohibitive for most timber sales. However there may be advantages that override the cost concerns, as in the case of the Biscuit Fire Salvage where this system was demonstrated.

Some Advantages
  • High production rate. Can be used where heavy workloads and timing are a concern, such as large salvage operations.
  • Can be used effectively in steep terrain.
  • Safety. Avoids hazardous conditions on the ground such as steep, rocky ground or areas with a high number of snags.
  • Units are GPS'ed at the same time as they are painted.
  • Continuous GPS signal from the air eliminates concerns for canopy interference.
Some Disadvantages
  • High cost.
  • Somewhat weather dependent for helicopter use.
Demonstration Project

The TimberMark system was demonstrated in early May, 2004 on the Siskiyou NF in Oregon. The forest needed to designate salvage timber resulting from the Biscuit Fire. The project needed to be completed quickly to avoid deterioration of timber. Much of the area being salvaged is steep and sometimes rocky. All of the areas have high concentrations of dead trees creating the potential for hazardous working conditions.

The marking contract included estimated linear feet of marking and provided for time (hours) for reconnaissance prior to marking. The following is information from the Siskiyou NF project:
  • Acres designated 1,082
  • Units designated 30
  • Average unit size (acres) 36
  • Smallest unit (acres) 5
  • Largest unit (acres) 132
  • Linear feet designated 171,650
  • Days for designation 9
  • Total flight hours 26.5
The above production rate information should only be used as a general guide because it is based on only one project.

Contract Preparation

A copy of the contract for this project can be obtained by contacting the Siskiyou NF (see contacts below). Several lessons were learned during this project. UAP Timberland has the following suggestions for future contracts.
  • Specify horizontal distance as unit of measurement.
  • Allow for a range of marking specifications (volume of paint/distance between marks) to account for varying conditions.
  • Specify definition of reconnaissance flights. Are they to review units identified in the contract or to look for additional areas not included?
  • Incorporate reconnaissance flight time as a stand-alone item in the contract.
  • Specify GPS requirements.
  • Provide 4 inch/mile maps prior to bid submission.
  • Have aerial photography available for the TimberMark operator.
For the Siskiyou NF project aerial unit reconnaissance was done as part of this contract. Several modifications were made during reconnaissance. It may be more cost effective for the Forest Service to conduct aerial reconnaissance and GPS layout of units as a separate task/contract. TimberMark would then use the final GPS unit boundaries to delineate units. This would make the Helicopter Manager the only necessary on-site Forest Service person.


Siskiyou National Forest
Roy Stuart
(541) 560-3463

Tom Link
(541) 471-6801

Barbara Sypert
Contracting Officer
(541) 858-2234

UAP Timberland
John Steward
TimberMark Business Manager
Office (207) 827-1002
Mobile (207) 944-3999

Wayne Clark
TimberMark Operations Manager
Office (207) 827-1002
Mobile (207) 944-3543

View demonstration video (Click Here).