FCH logo Fandrich Cone Harvesters:
Information Bulletins-- General

Table of Contents

Number Topic Written Revised
IB#20 Recommended Aerial Rakes February 2004
IB#15 Fandrich Aerial Equipment August 1996 July 1998
IB#17 Optimizing Aerial Cone Collection June 1998  
IB#9 Fandrich Aerial Harvesting News July 1991  

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IB#15: Fandrich Aerial Equipment

August 1996 Information Bulletin


Fandrich aerial equipment is mechanizing cone harvesting operations. A Fandrich aerial rake on a helicopter can rapidly collect the best cones from 60 - 100 trees per hour.

A Fandrich grapple on a helicopter can quickly clean creeks, transport debris and move material at 80 - 120 loads per hour.

Fandrich Powerrake


Manual-Unload Shear


Fandrich Branch Collector


Fandrich Grapple


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June 1998 Information Bulletin


Recent improvements to the Fandrich cone rake have resulted in:

  • increased cone harvesting efficiency
  • greater flexibility for cone collectors
A new star-shaped head for the Fandrich Branch Collector makes cutting cone-laden branches more efficient and easier on the helicopter. The specially shaped hardened knives can be removed easily for sharpening.


  1. Estimate number of trees required to collect one hectolitre of cones (or the volume of cones carried per load) and distance travelled from trees to dumping site.
  2. Read volume collected per hour from the table below.
  3. Calculate collecting cost per hectolitre by dividing operating expenses (helicopter plus ground crew plus rake rental costs) by the volume collected per hour.
  4. Add in sacking, ferrying, monitoring, transportation, and fixed costs.
  5. Keep costs low by selecting dumping sites close to trees being raked.
Volume collected per hour (hl/h)
Distance travelled (km)* Volume
per load
.5 1 2 5 10 20
2 35 33 30 24 18 12 5.5
3 23 22 20 16 12 7.9 3.7
4 17 17 15 12 9.0 5.9 2.8
5 14 13 12 10 7.2 4.8 2.2
7 10 9.5 8.7 6.9 5.1 3.4 1.6
10 7.0 6.6 6.1 4.8 3.6 2.4 1.1
15 4.6 4.4 4.0 3.2 2.4 1.6 .7
20 3.5 3.3 3.0 2.4 1.8 1.2 .6
Assumptions: trees per load=11, unloading time=45 sec,
raking rate=45 sec/tree, helicopter speed=80 mph=133km/h
* 1 hl=2.84 bu (US), 1 km=.6 miles

Volume collected per hour (bu/h)*
Distance travelled (mi) Volume
per load
.1 .5 1 2 5
.7 74 66 58 47 30 8.5
1 52 46 41 33 21 5.9
1.5 34 31 27 22 14 3.9
2 26 23 20 16 10 3.0
3 17 15 13 11 7 2.0
5 10 9 8 6 4 1.2
7 7 6 6 5 3 .8
NOTE: This table was taken from IB#4.

Fandrich Branch Collector, Balsam Rake


Douglas fir: Fandrich powerrake
Spruce: Fandrich powerrake or shear
Lodgepole pine: Fandrich shear
Abies/True fir: Fandrich branch collector or shear
Larch: Fandrich powerrake

The Fandrich self-dumping shear is usually faster than the Fandrich manual unload shear when distances from trees to dumping sites are less than 3 km (2 miles). A fast pilot with a larger helicopter who dumps the load without stopping will find the self-dumper faster up to a distance of 5 km (3 miles).

The Fandrich manual unload shear requires the ground crew to unload the cone-laden tree-tops by hand while the helicopter is hovering overhead. By decreasing unloading time from 60 to 30 seconds, production is increased 5%.
Fandrich Branch Collector

Aerial Grapple

Flexible fingers on the Fandrich powerrake strip cones from branches while leaving the tree intact.

A Fandrich aerial grapple cleans creeks, penetrates and moves debris, and opens up beaver dams in water. Simply hook the grapple to a helicopter and connect to a switch to make the mechanical grapple fully operational. Lifting the grapple encloses the load and pressing a switch releases the load. A Fandrich grapple can be used on small projects since the minimum rental is only 4 hours.

Aerial Grapple

New star-shaped head on Fandrich Branch Collector


Fandrich cone harvesters have been so successful that they have mechanized the cone collecting industry throughout North America.

In 1993, 49 Fandrich aerial rakes collected nearly 10,000 hl (28,400 bu) of cones. If the seeds from these cones were planted at 4 meter intervals, the rows of seedlings would encircle the equator 160 times.


Small aerial collections can often be combined with neighbouring projects to make a collection of even a few bushels feasible. Aerial collection is usually the most cost effective method to gather the cones from the tops of trees where the best cones grow.

Equipment book available upon request


Reservations for a Fandrich rake are best made when an aerial cone collection seems likely. Fandrich Cone Harvesters will hold a rake in reserve until we are instructed to ship it or the project is cancelled.

There is no charge for making a reservation but once equipment is shipped, a one-time service charge and shipping costs apply as well as a charge based on volume of cones collected.


An information book has the company's 20 years of aerial harvesting information compiled in 128 pages. If you can use it, ask for this free book or request information bulletins on particular rakes or grapples. We want to help foresters efficiently replenish their inventory with top quality cones.

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IB#9: Fandrich Aerial Harvesting News

July 1991 Information Bulletin


The forester in Oregon sounded skeptical. "The idea of cutting tree-tops for cones doesn't sound good to me," he told me over the phone.

"Try out the new aerial shear," I said, "and see the results yourself." He agreed and I took a Fandrich shear to eastern Oregon. The pilot hooked the shear to his Jet Ranger and brought back a basket bulging with cone-laden white pine tree-tops.

As the forester and I inspected the pile of cones and tops on the ground, we noticed something unusual. Two thirds of the tops had new leaders formed either by a single branch or by multiple branches.

An ice storm must have blown through the high country several years before, breaking off most of the tops in its path.

"It looks like the Fandrich shear does what nature does," I said, "but does it neatly. Topping eaves small clean cuts whereas nature leaves long ragged splinters."

The forester looked up at the trees on the skyline. "I can hardly tell which trees have been topped," he said in amazement.

When the pilot landed and reported how much easier it was to use the Fandrich shear, the skeptical forester turned into a believer. The pilot went on to collect another 528 bushels of white pine, Noble fir and Douglas fir cones with the new Fandrich aerial shear.

Helmut Fandrich

Branch Collector in Oregon


Last year British Columbia cone collectors harvested 4200 hectolitres of cones (12,000 bu) with the Fandrich aerial shear, including 2100 hectolitres of lodgepole pine cones. A forester from Smithers collected 366 hL of lodgepole pine cones in less than two weeks in two areas of central British Columbia at a rate that was higher than average. On her cone collection report she wrote:

"Cone crop was excellent in both areas. Actual picking rate by N.M. Helicopters was 5.40 HL per hour. The selected stand was along the main road so we were able to dump right there and as the chopper moved up the road we were able to do the same, unloading within 17 to 28 seconds, averaging 12 tops. Average rate for Poison Creek area was slightly less at 5.12 HL per hour due to cut blocks and access in area. ...All in all I was pleased with collections, especially the two pilots being very helpful and efficient with solving problems with the operation - experience helps."

Other companies collected cones where the crop was poor to build up a supply of needed seeds. Hundreds of hectolitres of lodgepole pine cones were collected at about one hectolitre per hour.


Aerial harvesting of cones is popular in British Columbia. During the last 3 years 97% of abies fir cones, 69% of Douglas fir cones and 66% of spruce cones were collected aerially.

Fandrich self-dumping shear makes unloading easy and fast

Since their introduction three years ago, Fandrich shears have gained acceptance very quickly in British Columbia. Last year 88% of the cones harvested aerially were collected with Fandrich shears. This included all of the lodgepole pine, spruce, and hemlock cones, 74% of Douglas fir cones, and 79% of Abies fir cones collected aerially.


Unloading the Fandrich shear is quick and easy with the introduction of the self-dumping basket. The pilot triggers the unloading mechanism when he arrives over the unloading site and the load of cones falls to the ground or directly into a truck for transport to a more convenient sacking site.

A crew is no longer required under the helicopter to unload the tops. Unloading time has been greatly reduced, making helicopter time more efficient and cost effective.

Aerial Cone Harvesting Decision Table

  Topping (Fandrich Shear) Raking
(Fandrich Branch Collector)
Powerraking (Fandrich Powerrake)
Condition Manual Unloading Self-Dumping
Rigid Fold-up Rigid Fold-up
Weight (lb) 390 380 425 390 310 365
Size for Transport (feet) 7x11 7x8 7x12 7x8.5 8 diameter 7 diameter
Unloading Time 20-90 sec none 20-60 sec 20-60 sec
People Under Helicopter Yes, to unload tops No, load dumps itself Yes, to latch up Yes, to unload
Source of Power Honda engine cuts tree-tops Honda engine cuts tree-tops Helicopter lift cuts branches Honda engine strips branches
Wiring Required Switch to cut
Switch to open
Switch to cut
Switch to dump
Constant power to third wire
None Switch to strip branches
Switch to lift up

Unloading manual shear Treetop with multiple tops
Unloading manual shear Treetop with multiple tops

Cone Collection by Method for 1988-1990 in B.C.
Species Raking Topping Other Total (hL)
hL % of total hL % of total hL % of total
Lodgepole pine 170 2 2,096 19 8,924 79 11,190
Douglas Fir 323 15 1,200 54 696 31 2,219
Spruce 70 4 1,088 62 588 34 1,745
Abies Fir 1,264 47 1,342 50 88 3 2,694
Hemlock 69 42 88 54 6 14 163
Cedar 70 27 5 2 179 71 253
Totals 1,966 11 5,819 32 10,486 57 18,265

The following table was printed in "A Guide to Aerial Cone Collection Equipment and Techniques in British Columbia" by W.G. Camenzind, Ministry of Forests, Victoria, Canada, June 1990.

Decision Aid Table

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This page was last updated September 30, 1999