UAS Research for Optimal Lightweight Camera/Sensor Options for Low Cost Sensed Data and Imagery

Project ID: 9179
Principal Investigator: Kristin Swoboda
Research Topic: Water Resource Data Analysis
Funded Fiscal Years: 2014
Keywords: unmanned aircraft systems, uas, uav, multispectral, hyperspectral, sensor, thermal infrared, imagery

Research Question

It has been demonstrated that Reclamation data collection projects benefit from the ability to acquire high-resolution still, video, and infrared imagery using the Raven RQ-11A or T-Hawk RQ-16C small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS)currently available through DOI, Office of Aviation Services. Would LiDAR, Digital Stereo, Foward Looking Infrared (FLIR), Thermal Infrared Imagery (TIR), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Hyperspectral (HSI) or Multispectral(MSS) sensors provide valuable options increasing benefit of low altitude aerial acquisition on behalf of Reclamation Mission Activities Programs/Projects?

Need and Benefit

sUAS technologies present opportunities for innovative data collection solutions that can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Reclamation mission activities, such as dam safety, water operations and resource monitoring and protection. Remotely sensed information and data such as LiDAR, Thermal Infared/Forward Looking Infrared (TIR/FLIR), SAR, Stereo Imagery, Hyperspecteral, and Multispectral images are used extensively by Reclamation programs and projects in support of mission activities. In many cases, the acquisition of imagery and remote sensed data can be cost prohibitive and/or time prohibitive to meet the project needs. sUAS technology utilizing enhanced sensor capability results in less costs, better data, with faster turnaround time on data and imagery products. Timely and cost effective data and imagery acquisition, particularly in remote or difficult to access and potentially hazardous locations, is of considerable benefit to Reclamation. Mission activities, such as dam safety inspections, resource inventory and monitoring, landslide investigations, and emergency response, often involve difficult to access locations that can be readily accessed by sUAS. Reclamation's remoting sensing ranges widely, but use of remotely sensed data is typically limited to large projects due to the high cost of mobilizing traditional remote sensing platforms. The range of sUAS sensors and the lower cost to mobilize could make remotely sensed data accessible to smaller projects.

Information about possible sensor capabilities of the Raven and T-Hawk sUASs is not readily available to Reclamation managers and staff in a useable form. There is a need to test and evaluate sensors and identify useful data products. Information about the capabilities of available sensors on DOI sUAS platforms will assist Reclamation managers and staff in identifying potential opportunities to help meet program, project, and mission objectives more effectively and efficiently.

Preliminary findings of ongoing research indicate that there are a number of activities that could benefit from the enhanced sensor capabilities of sUAS. For example, the T-Hawk's capability to hover and capture TIR imagery could greatly enhance detection and investigation of seepage on difficult to access dam faces or remote canal structures (Sodell, 2013). Other possibilites include the potential use of a multispectral lens on the Raven sUAS to help monitor and protect archeological resources, perform rapid natural resource inventory and monitoring, landslide and geologic analysis, and similar activities.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Examples of data and imagery products derived from sensors. Documentation of sensors, performance, and the range of output products in technical report and information materials.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20