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Open AccessArticle

Evaluation of Incident Light Sensors on Unmanned Aircraft for Calculation of Spectral Reflectance

USDA-ARS Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, BARC-West Building 007 Room 104, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA
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Remote Sens. 2019, 11(22), 2622; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs11222622
Received: 28 September 2019 / Revised: 30 October 2019 / Accepted: 6 November 2019 / Published: 9 November 2019
Including incident light sensors (ILS) with multispectral sensors is an important development for agricultural remote sensing because spectral reflectances are necessary for accurate determination of plant biophysical variables such as leaf area index and leaf chlorophyll content. Effects of different aircraft flight conditions on accuracy of surface reflectances retrieved using an ILS are not known. The objectives of this study were to assess the effects of ILS orientation with respect to sun and aircraft altitude. A Tetracam Miniature Multiple Camera Array (Mini-MCA) was mounted on a fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with the ILS mounted on top of the aircraft’s fuselage. On two dates the aircraft flew over six 50-ha agricultural fields with center-pivot irrigation at three different altitudes (450, 650 and 1800 m above ground level (AGL)). Ground reflectances were estimated using atmospherically corrected Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager data acquired at or near the time of the aircraft overflights. Because the aircraft had a positive pitch during flight, the ILS pointed opposite to the flight direction. The first date had flight lines closely oriented towards and away from the sun. The second date had flight lines oriented perpendicularly to the solar azimuth. On the first date, red and near-infrared (NIR) reflectances were significantly higher when the ILS was oriented away from the sun, whereas ILS orientation had little effect on the second date. For both dates, red and near-infrared reflectances were significantly greater at 450 m compared to 1800 m. Both the effects of ILS orientation and flight altitude are correctable during image processing because the physical basis is well known. View Full-Text
Keywords: fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles; multispectral sensor; irradiance sensor; flight altitude; flight direction; Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager; crop monitoring; precision agriculture fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles; multispectral sensor; irradiance sensor; flight altitude; flight direction; Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager; crop monitoring; precision agriculture
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MDPI and ACS Style

Hunt, E.R., Jr.; Stern, A.J. Evaluation of Incident Light Sensors on Unmanned Aircraft for Calculation of Spectral Reflectance. Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 2622.

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