Headwall's micro-hyperspec sensors slated for Norway UAS project

By Emily Aasand | October 16, 2014

Columbia University will be using two high-performance hyperspectral imaging sensors designed by Headwall Photonics as part of its Air-Sea-Ice physics and biogeochemistry experiment. This remote-sensing project, funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, will use a high-endurance unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to gather data on climate changes present in the Arctic Ocean around Svalbard, Norway.

“We chose the Headwall sensors for several reasons,” said Christopher Zappa, a Lamont research professor at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “The very high resolution allows us to collect and process vast amounts of spectral and spatial data upon which our research and analysis depend.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory will operate the Manta, a UAS developed by Sensintel. The Manta is a large capacity, lightweight category UAS that can be carried, setup and operated by two individuals. According to the company, the Manta can be launched from any flat area, making it capable of both land and sea take-off and landing.  

“The UAS allows scientists to measure in places that typically are impossible to get to using ships or manned aircraft,” said Zappa. “This opens up the possibility for transformative understanding of the climate system. Since we’re using a UAS, we depend on ‘seeing’ as much of the ocean surface as possible, minimizing any aberrations or unwanted artifacts along the edges of the field of view.”

The payload for ASIPBEX consists of two Micro-Hypersec sensors; one will cover the Visible-Near-Infrared range of 400 to 1000 nanometers while the other will cover the Near-Infrared range of 900 to 1700 nanometers. Both of which, the company said will help in detecting indicators of sea ice physics, solar warming and global carbon cycles.

The Hyperspec III airborne software allows researchers to collect, classify and interpret the spectral data collected during each flight using remote sensing applications that are fully automated with respect to sensor control and operation.

“Hyperspectral represents a crucial payload for any manned or unmanned deployment,” said David Bannon, CEO of Headwall. “But significantly notable is that the UAS has become a ‘go-to’ platform. This means not only smaller and lighter sensors, but also integrated solutions that factor in everything from LiDAR and data-management to post-processing tasks such as ortho-rectification that our software can handle.”  

Zappa leads the Observatory of Air-Sea Interaction Studies that conducts various research focused on the oceanic and atmospheric boundary layers including wave dynamics and wave breaking, air-sea carbon dioxide gas exchange, non-satellite remote sensing and boundary-layer processes. OASIS develops and deploys instruments including infrared, multispectral, and polarimetric cameras on different fixed and mobile platforms such as ships, aircrafts and buoys.