Site loading image


The Evolution of Vegetation Management Technologies

John Brickley and Brandon Browning | October 11, 2022

Increasingly, utility companies are using technology to transform how they plan and manage their vegetation programs. Five years ago, most vegetation management (VM) programs primarily utilized LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to determine vegetation proximity to utility assets. But today, they can perform hazard assessments and identify vegetation by species, growth patterns, health, density, proximity, and how likely vegetation is to infringe on utility infrastructure. 

From production forecasting to process and system modeling and optimization, identifying and implementing appropriate VM technology is now crucial to ensuring the successful outcome of VM projects. VM technology has gone through a series of transformations in the recent past, allowing utilities and contractors to utilize large data sets to better understand and evaluate risk factors in their VM programs. While old data sets might be able to tell simple readings for elevation and general classifications, such as identifying a tree and a car, modern technology and advancements in deployable artificial intelligence have allowed for more definable and specific classifications. Utilizing satellite technology, operators can now identify specific vegetation by species, and capture images on a continuous basis in order to model and predict growth patterns, climate impacts on vegetation, as well as disease, pests, and invasive species. This insight helps inform the utility of where vegetation might spread in and around their lands and assets.  


Satellite imaging technologies have begun to take precedence over LiDAR. While Lidar informs where vegetation is in proximity to electrical assets and requires more human involvement and specialty equipment on which to deploy the system such as a vehicle, drone, helicopter, or fixed-wing aircraft and driven by or flown over assets, satellite imaging technologies can capture and identify a multitude of variables within vegetation. Additionally, some satellites are geostationary, allowing for imaging captures and surveys to be conducted instantaneously. Market trends demonstrate that the VM industry is embracing the actualized benefits that instant, constant scans provide in tracking vegetation changes and corresponding impacts resulting from various types of major weather events, climate change impacts, wildfires, or invasive insects and diseases. 

Utilities are utilizing this new technology and information to change the way they approach their VM programs. While cyclical maintenance work is still crucial, operators are looking at how to optimize current budgets based on advancements in modeling data and ensuring every dollar allocated provides the maximum return on spend. Advancements in technology allow utilities to utilize survey data and identify hotspots within their systems with higher tree densities and known reliability impacts. When utilities possess the ability to identify which species of vegetation grow faster in proximity to, or pose an increased hazard risk to their assets, they can strategize to get ahead of the problem areas. This can allow utilities to extend cyclical maintenance periods, by identifying and mitigating risk factors and optimizing VM program operations by addressing areas with elevated needs. Performing this work also helps to improve reliability performance and metrics, ultimately leading to less frequent outages. When outages do occur, they are shorter in duration and are able to be addressed in a timely manner, reducing overall impacts to reliability.   

One example of a project where VM technology proved crucial was a case where a utility needed help with wildfire mitigation. In order to inventory trees that put the client’s power infrastructure at risk, TRC assisted with the development and implementation of a digital program that utility and contractor crews used for data collection. Field workers were able to capture photo documentation of a tree and its environment with their iPhone or Android handheld device, upload it to a form, and have the resulting information roll into a centralized database where it was joined with all other data points to form a wholistic programmatic model. The VM team would then review the field data and categorize the trees and relevant constraints based on work type and location. 

How can TRC help?

As an industry leader in Vegetation Management, TRC assists clients in all aspects of VM technology. To solve a client’s problem, we do not simply pull existing technology off the shelf – we excel in both extending technologies and working with our clients to identify and develop new solutions to fit our client’s needs. TRC has a unique blend of disciplines that is rare in this industry – while other consultants typically focus on one or two areas, TRC has biologists, archeologists, permitting specialists, project managers, accountants, and more that are ready to help you with any aspect of VM that you need without the complications and potential conflicts that come from being a subsidiary or affiliate of a tree company. 

John A Brickley

John A Brickley is a Project Manager within TRC’s Vegetation Management (VM) practice. He works with a variety of utility and VM clients both nationally and internationally, and collaborates with multiple internal teams. Contact him at

Brandon Browning

Brandon Browning, TRC’s Director of Process & Technology has 16 years of experience in Program Management, Project Management, Technology Development, GIS, and Mapping. Brandon is responsible for building and maintaining the environment in which TRC’s Field teams execute their work. Contact him at

Looking for effective solutions to your problems?

Turn to the experts at TRC.

By clicking "Accept", you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. Read our Privacy Policy.