Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: CONSERVATION EFFECTS ASSESSMENT PROJECT - GRAZINGLANDS (2010-2011)

Location: Range Management Research

Title: UAS remote sensing missions for rangeland applications

Authors
item Laliberte, Andrea -
item Winters, Craig
item Rango, Albert

Submitted to: Geocarto International
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 15, 2011
Publication Date: March 1, 2011
Repository URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/57967
Citation: Laliberte, A.S., Winters, C.D., Rango, A. 2011. UAS remote sensing missions for rangeland applications. Geocarto International. 26(2):141-156.

Interpretive Summary: In recent years, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have been used increasingly for remote sensing of natural resources. Rangelands cover about 50% of the earth’s land surface, are in remote areas and have low population densities, all of which provide an ideal opportunity for UAS remote sensing. Compared to piloted aircraft, UAS can acquire imagery at lower acquisition costs, they can be deployed relatively quickly and repeatedly, and images can be obtained from low altitudes at very high resolution. Some of the challenges include regulatory issues of operating a UAS in the National Airspace System, and image processing complexities due to the lower stability of small UAS as sensor platforms, the volume of imagery acquired, and the low spectral and radiometric resolution of low-cost sensors. In this paper, we (1) describe a proven workflow for UAS-based rangeland remote sensing, and (2) discuss geometric errors of image mosaics and classification accuracies at different levels of detail. We report on several UAS missions over rangelands in Idaho and New Mexico, USA, where we acquired 6-8-cm resolution aerial photography and concurrent field measurements. The geometric accuracies of the image mosaics were in the 1-2 m range, and overall classification accuracies for vegetation maps ranged from 78% to 92%. While current FAA regulations restrict UAS operations to within line-of-sight, limiting outputs to relatively small areas, our results show that UAS are a viable platform for obtaining very high resolution remote sensing products for applied vegetation mapping of rangelands.

Technical Abstract: Rangelands cover about 50% of the earth’s land surface, are in remote areas and have low population densities, all of which provide an ideal opportunity for remote sensing applications from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). In this paper, we describe a proven workflow for UAS-based remote sensing, and discuss geometric errors of image mosaics and classification accuracies at different levels of detail. We report on several UAS missions over rangelands in Idaho and New Mexico, USA, where we acquired 6-8-cm resolution aerial photography and concurrent field measurements. The geometric accuracies of the image mosaics were in the 1-2 m range, and overall classification accuracies for vegetation maps ranged from 78% to 92%. Despite current FAA regulations that restrict UAS operations to distances within line-of-sight of the UAS, our results show that UAS are a viable platform for obtaining very high resolution remote sensing products for applied vegetation mapping of rangelands.

Last Modified: 9/22/2014