Determining an optimum inventory route for an areal object: the case of forest inventory in Finland
In recent decades, routing based on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has become a major branch of technology, which has been used especially in applications related to transport and logistics. However, in terms of the development of methods, routing in a cross-country environment is more difficult, and hence research into it has been relatively scarce. This is particularly true in the context of complex routing problems involving visits to several locations. A typical example of a problem of this kind is field inventory, which is a data collection procedure used in many application areas, particularly those related to environmental research and the management of natural resources. This study presents a problem in which an efficient inventory route is determined for an areal object, such that the area visible from the route meets a prescribed threshold, while maintaining the shortest possible route. Although this problem, referred to here as the Areal Inventory Problem (AIP), is closely related to a multitude of routing and location allocation methods known in the context of GIS, none of them is very well-suited for solving the AIP. This study describes a general solution procedure for the AIP, and introduces an implementation of a heuristic algorithm that can be used to solve a real-world AIP within a reasonable time frame. The proposed approach is demonstrated with actual data related to field inventory practices carried out by the Finnish Forest Centre.