Novel measurements of a fine-scale albedo: Using a commercial quadcopter to measure radiation fluxes

Published by Stephanie Mayer on

Remote sensing of radiative indices must balance spatially and temporally coarse satellite measurements with finer-scale, but geographically limited, in-situ surface measurements. Instruments mounted upon an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) can provide small-scale, mobile remote measurements that fill this resolution gap. Here we present and validate a novel method of obtaining albedo values using an unmodified quadcopter at a deciduous northern hardwood forest. We validate this method by comparing simultaneous albedo estimates by UAV and a fixed tower at the same site. We found that UAV provided stable albedo measurements across multiple flights, with results that were well within the range of tower-estimated albedo at similar forested sites. Our results indicate that in-situ albedo measurements (tower and UAV) capture more site-to-site variation in albedo than satellite measurements. Overall, we show that UAVs produce reliable, consistent albedo measurements that can capture crucial surface heterogeneity, clearly distinguishing between different land uses. Future application of this approach can provide detailed measurements of albedo and potentially other vegetation indices to enhance global research and modeling efforts.