Compact, High Performance, Drone-mounted Spectral Imaging System for Ecosystem Carbon-Cycle Characterization and Agricultural Monitoring

Period of Performance: 02/22/2016 - 11/21/2016


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Spectral Sciences, Inc.
4 Fourth Avenue Array
Burlington, MA 01803
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


Modeling and predicting climate change requires knowledge of the fate of excess CO2 in the global carbon cycle, and particularly the processes of terrestrial carbon sequestration. Information on these processes can be obtained from vegetation trait measurements at frequent time intervals and over a wide range of spatial scales using imaging spectroradiometers on Unmanned Aerial Systems. The required spectral range is 350-2500 nm. A small, low-weight, hyperspectral imaging spectroradiometer system for UASs will be developed based on a high-performance solid-core spectrograph design and robust processing algorithms that produce calibrated vegetation trait products. The key innovation is extension of the measurement range from the visible to the short-wave-infrared. The system will be packaged for deployment on a multicopter or fixed-wind Unmanned Aerial System, enabling overflight monitoring of vegetation to determine sequestered carbon content. In Phase II it will be integrated with a multicopter and tested at a well-instrumented ecological research facility. A complete system design will be developed including: 1) a detailed optical and mechanical design for the new imaging spectrograph, and 2) processing algorithms for automated production of calibrated, atmospherically corrected imagery and vegetation products. Feasibility will be proven and system performance predicted through engineering calculations and processing of airborne hyperspectral data. A lightweight imaging spectral sensor integrated into a small drone multicopter will produce high-resolution maps of plant health for climate change research and precision agriculture. Researchers can map ecological change at the forest level, while farmers can control fertilizer and water based on the requirements of individual plants. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: The sensor system will be integrated into a commercial product line aimed at the precision agriculture and mineral exploration industries. It represents a breakthrough in size, weight, and performance that will enable routine application in the growing, but cost-sensitive field of precision agriculture. It will also be sold into the agricultural and ecological research markets.