Aerial View: Tree Removal from Above

Seeing a forest from high above offers a unique perspective. The bird’s eye view reveals patterns and details often missed from the ground. When it comes to tree removal, an aerial viewpoint opens up distinctive possibilities as well. Aerial tree removal provides access that’s not available with traditional ground-based methods.  

While climbing crews and bucket trucks allow arborists to reach high branches, aerial tree removal operates on a massive scale. Using heavy-duty helicopters or cranes, entire trees—root balls and all—can be lifted and transported in one piece. Rather than a chainsaw-wielding worker, it’s an aircraft hoisting huge timbers skyward.

What is Aerial Tree Removal?

Aerial tree removal, also known as aerial arboriculture, refers to the process of removing trees using specialized equipment and techniques while working at height. Unlike traditional tree removal where workers cut trees from the ground, aerial tree removal utilizes bucket trucks, cranes, helicopters, or other aerial platforms to access tall trees or trees in difficult-to-reach locations. 

The key benefit of aerial tree removal is that it provides access to trees that would otherwise be challenging or dangerous to remove from the ground. Workers are lifted up to the canopy of the tree in order to make strategic cuts and safely lower sections to the ground. This approach helps mitigate safety hazards associated with felling large trees or working on steep slopes. Additionally, aerial tree removal minimizes damage to landscapes, structures, or other trees on the property since there is more control over where and how trees are taken down.

When is Aerial Tree Removal Used?

Aerial tree removal is primarily used when traditional tree removal methods are impractical, dangerous, or inefficient. Here are some of the main reasons aerial tree removal may be preferred:

  • Removing trees in hard-to-access areas: Aerial removal allows access to trees on steep slopes, near power lines, or in other hazardous locations where getting heavy equipment may not be possible. The aerial equipment can maneuver into tight spaces.
  • Preserving landscapes: Using aerial equipment like helicopters or cranes minimizes disruption to the surrounding landscape. It prevents damage to lawns, gardens, and other landscaping that can occur with heavy machinery use.
  • Speed and efficiency: For removing a large number of trees or clearing a wide area, aerial tree removal is significantly faster than manual methods. It’s also less labor intensive.
  • Removing large trees: Eliminating extra tall, old, or massive trees is easier and safer using aerial equipment that can safely dismantle and lower sections of the tree. This avoids the hazards of felling extremely large trees whole.
  • Accessing dangerous trees: Aerial removal can safely access trees that are diseased, storm damaged, or posing other hazards that make them risky to fell conventionally. The equipment can remove them piece by piece.
  • Working near utilities: Carefully removing trees near power lines, roofs, or other utilities is safer from the air and reduces risk of property damage.
  • Minimal noise/vibration: In residential areas or other noise-sensitive environments, aerial tree removal generates less noise and ground vibration than using tree grinders or excavators on the ground.

So in situations where conventional tree cutting and removal isn’t practical or safe enough, aerial tree removal is the preferred method. The right equipment and expertise allows arborists to remove trees quickly and safely from an aerial position.


Equipment Used

kelley tree service equipment

Aerial tree removal relies on specialized heavy machinery and aircraft to access and remove trees safely. Common equipment includes

                • Helicopters – Helicopters equipped with saws or grapples can hover above trees and cut or grab them. This allows for tree removal in hard-to-reach places. The helicopter’s maneuverability makes it ideal for residential areas.
                • Cranes – Truck-mounted cranes are commonly used, especially for taller trees. An operator sits in the crane and uses a chainsaw or shear to cut the tree, which is lowered to the ground. The crane’s extension arm allows it to reach high trees.
  • Bucket Trucks – These trucks have an arm (with a bucket on the end) that extends upwards to raise workers up to the tree branches. The worker can then cut pieces of the tree while in the bucket. Bucket trucks are better suited for smaller trees.
  • Tethered Helicopters – Smaller helicopters can be tethered to a truck, allowing an aerial saw to reach remote trees while the helicopter’s movement is restricted. The truck helps stabilize the helicopter.

The right equipment is chosen based on the tree’s height, location, and obstacles. Proper training is required to operate this machinery safely. The equipment’s lifting capacity, extension reach, and maneuverability are all important factors.

Process Step-by-Step

Aerial tree removal involves several key steps from start to finish:

  1. Site Evaluation – The tree removal team will first assess the site to determine any access issues, overhead wires, nearby structures, or other obstacles that could impact the aerial removal process. They will create a plan for where to position the equipment and how to safely fell the tree.
  2. Equipment Setup – This involves bringing the necessary equipment to the site, such as the aerial lift truck, chainsaws, ropes, and safety gear. The truck’s outriggers will be extended to stabilize it, allowing the boom lift to reach the tree. 
  3. Rigging – Rigging ropes or cables will be set up in the tree to control the direction of the fall and allow sections to be lowered safely to the ground. This may require climbing the tree and setting up pulley systems. Proper rigging is vital for safety and precision.
  4. Cutting – The aerial chainsaw operator will be lifted up in the bucket to start segmenting the tree. Strategic cuts are made to remove branches and control the tree falling direction. Extra caution is taken around any rigging.
  5. Lowering – The rigging set up earlier allows the cut tree sections to be lowered in a controlled fashion to the ground. A team member on the ground helps guide the pieces down safely.
  6. Chipping/Cleanup – Finally, the tree pieces are run through a wood chipper if needed. The team cleans up all debris and equipment before finishing the job.

Safety Considerations

kelley tree service branded employee

Aerial tree removal requires numerous safety precautions to protect the tree removal team and prevent damage to surrounding property. Companies that specialize in aerial tree removal invest heavily in safety equipment, training, and protocols.

              • The aerial lift operator receives specialized training on operating the equipment safely. Proper operation minimizes risk of electrocution from overhead power lines.
              • The crew wears safety harnesses, helmets, gloves, and eye protection. Harnesses prevent falls, while helmets, gloves and eyewear prevent injuries from falling branches and sawdust.
              • Work zones underneath and adjacent to the tree are clearly marked with cones, tape, or barricades. This keeps pedestrians at a safe distance.
              • A site survey is conducted beforehand to identify potential hazards like power lines. The aerial lift is strategically positioned to avoid these dangers.
  • Equipment undergoes thorough pre-operation inspection and is maintained diligently. Malfunctioning equipment poses severe risks.
  • A spotter assists the operator by monitoring the tree, equipment, and surroundings continuously. The spotter alerts the crew if any dangerous situation arises.
  • Sections of the tree are safely lowered to the ground using rigging techniques. This prevents heavy branches from free falling and causing damage or injury.
  • The worksite and equipment are cleaned thoroughly after the job to remove all hazards before reopening the area.

Safety is the top priority with aerial tree removal. Credible companies invest substantially in safety measures to protect their personnel, clients, and the public.

When to Avoid It

Aerial tree removal, while efficient in many cases, is not always the best option. Here are some situations when aerial removal is not recommended:

  • Trees located very close to power lines or structures. The risk of accidentally damaging wires or buildings is too high with aerial equipment. It’s safer to remove these trees using climbing gear or a lift.
  • Areas where space is extremely limited. Aerial lifts require room to maneuver around the tree. If the area is too tight, it’s better to go with a climber.
  • Very tall trees. Most aerial lifts can only reach heights of 60-75 feet. For trees above this, removal by climbing is a better choice.
  • Dead, decaying, or structurally unsound trees. These trees are unpredictable and could shift or break apart during aerial removal. It’s safer for a climber to carefully dismantle them piece-by-piece.
  • Regions with strict aerial equipment restrictions. Some local ordinances prohibit use of certain lifts. Always check regulations before assuming aerial removal is an option.
  • Sites with underground hazards. Buried utilities, septic tanks, etc. mean more risk for aerial lifts to drive over and damage something. Work with climbers instead.
  • Tight access routes. Lifts need straight, level paths in and out. If access is convoluted, climbing or crane removal are likely better.

Evaluating the tree and surrounding conditions is crucial in determining if aerial removal is appropriate. When it is not, it’s best to use alternate methods to take the tree down safely.

Environmental Impact

malden ma kelley tree service

Aerial tree removal, while efficient, does have some environmental impacts to consider. 

Here are a few key points:

                • Noise and air pollution from helicopters/equipment. The noise and exhaust from heavy machinery and helicopters can disturb wildlife and residents. This is temporary but worth noting.
                • Soil disruption. Since crews and equipment have to access the site, the ground under the trees can get compacted or otherwise disturbed. This may impact vegetation regrowth. Using low-impact vehicles when possible can help minimize this.
  • Destruction of wildlife habitats. Large old trees often contain nests, dens, or other habitat features for wildlife. Their sudden removal can displace local animal populations. Doing aerial removals outside of breeding seasons may reduce this effect.
  • Erosion and water runoff issues. Removing trees, especially on steep slopes, can make the soil more prone to erosion. The lack of tree roots can also impact stormwater absorption and lead to increased runoff. Proper land reclamation practices are important.
  • Lack of tree regeneration. Unlike selective cutting, aerial removal takes out all trees in the target area at once. This leaves no mature trees behind to reseed the area. Supplemental planting may be needed if natural regrowth is desired.

Overall, aerial tree removal can have more concentrated impacts compared to selective cutting. Being strategic about how and where it is done, along with mitigation efforts, can help minimize the environmental footprint. The efficiency of aerial removal may outweigh these factors in certain situations. Aerial tree removal can be a highly effective method for removing trees quickly and efficiently when done properly. Using specialized equipment like cranes, helicopters, and bucket trucks allows arborists to have an aerial view and carefully lower cut sections safely to the ground. This avoids potential damage to surrounding property. While aerial removal costs more than traditional methods, the time savings and minimized property damage can make it worthwhile for the right situations. Large trees near buildings and other infrastructure are ideal candidates. It should be avoided in extremely hazardous weather conditions or around power lines.

Environmental impact can be minimized by properly disposing of debris and planning flight paths to reduce noise pollution. With an experienced arborist at the helm, aerial tree removal enables surgical precision from unique vantage points high above the ground. When executed safely and professionally, it is an invaluable modern tool for arboriculture. Proper tree removal promotes growth of surrounding trees and maintains a healthier, vibrant ecosystem. From far above the canopy down to the forest floor, careful aerial tree removal can cultivate beauty in our treetops. 

For top-notch tree trimming, choose local heroes at Kelly Tree Service. With unmatched dedication and years of expertise in Woburn, they’re your go-to for tree care. Call (617) 841-7322 or visit to start your tree trimming journey.