Improving accuracy of unmanned aerial system thermal infrared remote sensing for use in energy balance models in agriculture applications

Mitchell S. Maguire, Christopher M.U. Neale, Wayne E. Woldt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Unmanned aerial system (UAS) remote sensing has rapidly expanded in recent years, leading to the development of several multispectral and thermal infrared sensors suitable for UAS integration. Remotely sensed thermal infrared imagery has been used to detect crop water stress and manage irrigation by leveraging the increased thermal signatures of water stressed plants. Thermal infrared cameras suitable for UAS remote sensing are often uncooled microbolometers. This type of thermal camera is subject to inaccuracies not typically present in cooled thermal cameras. In addition, atmospheric interference also may present inaccuracies in measuring surface tempera-ture. In this study, a UAS with integrated FLIR Duo Pro R (FDPR) thermal camera was used to collect thermal imagery over a maize and soybean field that contained twelve infrared thermome-ters (IRT) that measured surface temperature. Surface temperature measurements from the UAS FDPR thermal imagery and field IRTs corrected for emissivity and atmospheric interference were compared to determine accuracy of the FDPR thermal imagery. The comparison of the atmospheric interference corrected UAS FDPR and IRT surface temperature measurements yielded a RMSE of 2.24 degree Celsius and a R2 of 0.85. Additional approaches for correcting UAS FDPR thermal imagery explored linear, second order polynomial and artificial neural network models. These models simplified the process of correcting UAS FDPR thermal imagery. All three models performed well, with the linear model yielding a RMSE of 1.27 degree Celsius and a R2 of 0.93. Laboratory experiments also were completed to test the measurement stability of the FDPR thermal camera over time. These experiments found that the thermal camera required a warm-up period to achieve stability in thermal measurements, with increased warm-up duration likely improving accuracy of thermal measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1635
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • Calibration
  • FLIR
  • Remote sensing
  • Thermal infrared
  • Unmanned aerial system (UAS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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