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Sensors 2017, 17(7), 1499; doi:10.3390/s17071499

Vicarious Calibration of sUAS Microbolometer Temperature Imagery for Estimation of Radiometric Land Surface Temperature

Utah Water Research Laboratory, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
Received: 20 May 2017 / Revised: 20 June 2017 / Accepted: 20 June 2017 / Published: 26 June 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue UAV or Drones for Remote Sensing Applications)
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Abstract

In recent years, the availability of lightweight microbolometer thermal cameras compatible with small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) has allowed their use in diverse scientific and management activities that require sub-meter pixel resolution. Nevertheless, as with sensors already used in temperature remote sensing (e.g., Landsat satellites), a radiance atmospheric correction is necessary to estimate land surface temperature. This is because atmospheric conditions at any sUAS flight elevation will have an adverse impact on the image accuracy, derived calculations, and study replicability using the microbolometer technology. This study presents a vicarious calibration methodology (sUAS-specific, time-specific, flight-specific, and sensor-specific) for sUAS temperature imagery traceable back to NIST-standards and current atmospheric correction methods. For this methodology, a three-year data collection campaign with a sUAS called “AggieAir”, developed at Utah State University, was performed for vineyards near Lodi, California, for flights conducted at different times (early morning, Landsat overpass, and mid-afternoon”) and seasonal conditions. From the results of this study, it was found that, despite the spectral response of microbolometer cameras (7.0 to 14.0 μm), it was possible to account for the effects of atmospheric and sUAS operational conditions, regardless of time and weather, to acquire accurate surface temperature data. In addition, it was found that the main atmospheric correction parameters (transmissivity and atmospheric radiance) significantly varied over the course of a day. These parameters fluctuated the most in early morning and partially stabilized in Landsat overpass and in mid-afternoon times. In terms of accuracy, estimated atmospheric correction parameters presented adequate statistics (confidence bounds under ±0.1 for transmissivity and ±1.2 W/m2/sr/um for atmospheric radiance, with a range of RMSE below 1.0 W/m2/sr/um) for all sUAS flights. Differences in estimated temperatures between original thermal image and the vicarious calibration procedure reported here were estimated from −5 °C to 10 °C for early morning, and from 0 to 20 °C for Landsat overpass and mid-afternoon times. View Full-Text
Keywords: sUAS; vicarious calibration; thermal calibration; surface temperature; atmospheric correction; microbolometer cameras; thermal remote sensing sUAS; vicarious calibration; thermal calibration; surface temperature; atmospheric correction; microbolometer cameras; thermal remote sensing
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Torres-Rua, A. Vicarious Calibration of sUAS Microbolometer Temperature Imagery for Estimation of Radiometric Land Surface Temperature. Sensors 2017, 17, 1499.

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