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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES FOR ARID RANGELANDS Title: Hydrology with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

Authors
item Rango, Albert
item Vivoni, Enrique -

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: November 28, 2011
Publication Date: February 19, 2012
Citation: Rango, A., Vivoni, E. 2012. Hydrology with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) [Abstract].AGU Chapman Confrence on REmoe Sensing of the Terrestrail Water Cycle, February 19-22, 2012, Kona, Hawaii p.7, #1228817.

Technical Abstract: Hydrologic remote sensing currently depends on expensive and infrequent aircraft observations for validation of operational satellite products, typically conducted during field campaigns that also include ground-based measurements. With the advent of new, hydrologically-relevant satellite missions, such as the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission, there is a pressing need for more frequent, less expensive techniques for validating satellite retrievals that can be integrated with ground sensor networks. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) provide intermediate to high resolutions and spatial coverage that can fill the gap between satellite observations and ground-based sensors at resolutions superior to manned aircraft data. Their use in the hydrologic community for obtaining variables that can serve as input or validation fields for hydrologic models is an emerging area that deserves greater attention. The development of these tools for field to regional-scale hydrologic sensing and modeling is further punctuated by the potential for reduced long-term funding for satellite and manned aircraft missions. In this work, we present our recent experiences with the use of UAVs for hydrologic assessments and modeling at the Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, New Mexico. We document the capability of UAV platforms for obtaining very high resolution imagery, digital elevation models and vegetation canopy properties over an experimental watershed equipped with a distributed sensor network of water, energy and carbon states and fluxes. We also draw attention to the important interaction between UAV products and their direct use in hydrologic models at the watershed scale. From a hydrologic perspective, the development of UAV techniques should be driven by the necessary inputs to a hydrologic model or the potential for utilizing the imagery to test the model predictions. This co-development can ensure that remote sensing advances make their way into products that directly quantify the hydrologic cycle and improve predictive skill at a range of resolutions. We present results from the application of the Triangulated Irregular Network (TIN)-based Real-time Integrated Basin Simulator (tRIBS) to the instrumented upland watershed to highlight the challenges and benefits of these tailored remote sensing products. We also discuss how UAVs could be used to validate upcoming products from satellite missions for the purpose of improving their routine use in a range of watershed models applied at local to regional scales.

Last Modified: 11/28/2014
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