A passive method for remote sensing of the nuisance green algae Cladophora glomerata
in rivers is presented using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Included are methods for UAV operation, lens distortion correction, image georeferencing, and spectral analysis to support algal cover mapping. Eighteen aerial photography missions were conducted over the summer of 2013 using an off-the-shelf UAV and three-band, wide-angle, red, green, and blue (RGB) digital camera sensor. Images were post-processed, mosaicked, and georeferenced so automated classification and mapping could be completed. An adaptive cosine estimator (ACE) and spectral angle mapper (SAM) algorithm were used to complete the algal identification. Digital analysis of optical imagery correctly identified filamentous algae and background coverage 90% and 92% of the time, and tau coefficients were 0.82 and 0.84 for ACE and SAM, respectively. Thereafter, algal cover was characterized for a one-kilometer channel segment during each of the 18 UAV flights. Percent cover ranged from <5% to >50%, and increased immediately after vernal freshet, peaked in midsummer, and declined in the fall. Results indicate that optical remote sensing with UAV holds promise for completing spatially precise, and multi-temporal measurements of algae or submerged aquatic vegetation in shallow rivers with low turbidity and good optical transmission.
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