A comparison of white spruce phenology detected from ground, satellite, and drone's eye view

Authors: Clare Gaffey*, Clark University, Alexander Buyantuev, University at Albany, SUNY, Andrei Lapenis, University at Albany, SUNY
Topics: Remote Sensing, Environmental Science, Field Methods
Keywords: UAS, UAV, Drone, Phenology, Spruce, Climate Change, Remote Sensing,
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download


Plant phenology, timing of recurring phases of vegetation development, is controlled by climatic variables and photoperiod. As such, it can serve as an important indicator of local climate changes. While most metrics of vegetation development have been frequently analyzed at fine scales by ground-mounted cameras and visual observations, on one hand, and monitored at coarse scales by satellites, on the other, near surface remote sensing with Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) should provide important improvements for bridging these scales together. UAS allow certain flexibility for increasing temporal resolution of very fine spatial scale data. In this study, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) time-series have been collected at weekly to sub-weekly intervals for three years for a Picea glauca stand in the Huyck Preserve in upstate New York. The UAS-derived phenological patterns are compared to those from Landsat and MODIS, as well as with ground observations of bud break derived using an in-situ camera. Dense time-series of UAS-acquired data add valuable capabilities for phenology monitoring. However, the operation of UAS also adds unique challenges in terms of flight planning, flight requirements, technical maintenance, and post processing of data. This research compared phenophase transition dates of Picea glauca trees detected by UAS, the in-situ camera, Landsat, MODIS, and ground visual observations. Our experience with the use of UAS, some obstacles, and recommendations for similar UAS applications will also be discussed.

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