Request an Airborne Remote Sensing Survey

Vegetation health, distribution and biochemistry play an important role in how ecosystems change. Collecting airborne remote sensing data of an ecosystem can provide valuable insights into these processes, especially when they are surveyed following major disturbance events such as floods or wildfires. However, the equipment needed to collect these data can be cost prohibitive for a research study.

To enable researchers to obtain their own remote sensing data, NEON can conduct airborne remote sensing flight surveys using the NEON Airborne Observation Platform (AOP). NEON’s ability to provide researchers with access to an AOP depends on whether any unit is available for use at a given time. As with NEON’s other Assignable Assets, the requesting research team is responsible for covering NEON’s costs associated with deploying an AOP.

AOP Data Collection Capabilities

An AOP is an array of instruments installed in a light aircraft to collect high resolution remote sensing data.

Left: Point cloud from the lidar system; Middle: Hyperspectral cube from the spectometer; Right: Orthorectified and mosaicked aerial photo.

Data collection includes:

Lidar Data

NEON operates two Optech ALTM Gemini systems and a Riegl LMS-Q780 to collect both discrete and waveform LiDAR data.

Resolution: Discrete point cloud data and waveform data: approximately 1-4 points/waveforms per square meter. Discrete-derived surface topography products: Approximately one meter at 1000 meters above ground level (AGL) .

Data products include:

  • Discrete return Lidar point cloud
  • Lidar slant range waveform
  • Slope and Aspect - Lidar
  • Elevation - Lidar
  • Ecosystem structure

Hyperspectral Data

NEON’s imaging spectrometer is a pushbroom collection style instrument (AVIRIS next-gen) that was designed and built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It measures reflected light energy in greater than 420 narrow spectral bands extending from 380 to 2500 nm with a spectral sampling of five nm.

Resolution: Approximately one meter, at 1000 meters above ground level (AGL)

Data products include:

  • Hyperspectral Flightlines and Mosaics
    • Spectrometer orthorectified surface directional reflectance
    • Spectrometer orthorectified at-sensor radiance (flightline only)
    • fPAR
    • LAI
    • Total biomass map
    • Vegetation indices
    • Albedo
    • Canopy water content, lignin, nitrogen and xanthophyll cycle

Camera Data:

NEON operates two Phase One iXU-RS1000 (100 MP) digital aerial cameras, and one Phase One iXA (80 MP) camera.

Resolution: 6.6 - 10.0 cm @ 1000m AGL

Data products include:

  • High-resolution orthorectified RGB camera imagery and mosaics

How It Works

The AOP available through the AA program is equipped with the same instrumentation and data systems used to collect airborne remote sensing data over NEON field sites. During a flight survey, the AOP is deployed and operated by a NEON airborne sensor team. The data collected by the AOP are processed by NEON and then delivered to the research team. NEON can also provide ground support (e.g., ASD field spectroradiometer to collect foliar spectral measurements) for flight survey as needed.

Once a request is submitted, NEON works with the requestor to develop cost estimates and flight plans. During this process, flight parameters are adjusted based on researchers’ needs. For example, NEON will determine cloud cover and phenology for the area of interest; what altitude the data will be collected at; and whether the plan will include patterns, transects, etc.

Requesting an AOP Flight Survey

An AOP flight survey may be requested through the NEON Assignable Asset Program, which allows researchers to request the use of NEON infrastructure to advance ecological research and environmental studies.

  • All AOP requests undergo a feasibility evaluation by NEON project staff prior to approval.
  • As with all of NEON’s Assignable Asset requests, the investigators are responsible for providing funding to cover costs associated with each survey. Research teams often secure such support through grant programs administered by the National Science Foundation and other agencies.
  • Brand of equipment is dependent on which AOP is available at the time of flight survey.
  • Requests should be made as early as feasible to better incorporate deployments into NEON’s annual flight schedule. The goal is to receive and process requests during the winter before the next flight season begins. Urgent requests (such as RAPIDS grants) may be accommodated more quickly and are determined by asset availability.

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