A Compact L-band Radiometer for High Resolution sUAS-based Imaging of Soil Moisture and Surface Salinity Variations

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Maciej Stachura1, Albin John Gasiewski2, Eryan Dai2, Jack Elston1, Eric McIntyre2 and Vladimir Leuski2, (1)Organization Not Listed, Washington, DC, United States, (2)Univ of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States
Due to the long electrical wavelengths required along with practical aperture size limitations the scaling of passive microwave remote sensing of soil moisture and salinity from spaceborne low-resolution (~10-100 km) applications to high resolution (~10-1000 m) applications requires use of low flying aerial vehicles. This presentation summarizes the status of a project to develop a commercial small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) hosting a microwave radiometer for mapping of soil moisture in precision agriculture and sea surface salinity studies. The project is based on the Tempest electric-powered UAS and a compact L-band (1400-1427 MHz) radiometer developed specifically for extremely small and lightweight aerial platforms or man-portable, tractor, or tower-based applications. Notable in this combination are a highly integrated sUAS/radiometer antenna design and use of both the upwelling emitted signal from the surface and downwelling cold space signal for precise calibration using a unique lobe-differencing correlating radiometer architecture. The system achieves a spatial resolution comparable to the altitude of the UAS above the surface while referencing upwelling measurements to the constant and well-known background temperature of cold space. The radiometer has been tested using analog correlation detection, although future builds will include infrared, near-infrared, and visible (red) sensors for surface temperature and vegetation biomass correction and digital sampling for radio frequency interference mitigation. This NASA-sponsored project is being developed for commercial application in cropland water management (for example, high-value shallow root-zone crops), landslide risk assessment, NASA SMAP satellite validation, and NASA Aquarius salinity stratification studies. The system will ultimately be capable of observing salinity events caused by coastal glacier and estuary fresh water outflow plumes and open ocean rainfall events.