Council’s eye in the sky

Pilot Glenn Sheppard shows off a versatile drone. Picture: YARRA RANGES COUNCIL

Drones are allowing the Yarra Ranges Council trees team to inspect the municipality’s largest trees – some of which are up to 80 metres tall.
Council arborist and drone pilot Glenn Sheppard said the drone allowed the team, which receives up to 6000 requests for tree inspections per year, to gain a far better understanding of a tree’s condition.
“We found the need for a drone because our trees are so large. It allows us to view around the canopies and spot faults and areas of concern,” he said.
“The Dandenongs are where the larger tree stock is, where the Mountain Ash species is found, as well as the Yarra Valley and Warburton.”
The team of five arborists are able to capture video and still imagery of the canopy, removing the need to climb the tree or bring a mobile tower in which involves traffic control and additional expenses.
“It takes one of us to carry out an inspection now with the drone whereas before we needed five or six of us,” Mr Sheppard said.
“We are saving money on hiring contractors to get up trees, minimising the risks associated with climbing up faulty trees and reducing the use of expensive machinery.”
Thanks to the drone which council purchased in December 2016, the crew can see the extent of hollows or decay in a main stem or branch, damage to the upper canopy or at the top of branches.
Mr Sheppard said only trees deemed hazardous or high risk and not worthy of keeping were removed.
“We try to retain as much vegetation as possible,” he said.
“We have the highest tree canopy density in Victoria and the second-highest in Australia – second to Cairns in far north Queensland.
“The majority of our trees are between 30 metres to 60 metres high.”
The team is the busiest in September and October during the change of seasons which bring strong wind gusts.
“We are always prepared and we make sure enough contractors are available to do works as required,” he said.
“If strong storms are on the way we engage our Parks and Bushland team who have utes equipped with chainsaws and will carry out smaller jobs like moving tree branches off roads.
“We always have team members organised to respond after hours and we carry out work with the CFA and SES.”
If residents notice any sudden changes or deterioration in a tree’s condition, please call council on 1300 368 333 or lodge an online request at