Patented method transforms digital cameras for aerial color infrared photography

September 26, 2011 By Don Comis
Patented method transforms digital cameras for aerial color infrared photography
ARS physical scientist Raymond Hunt and colleagues have patented a way to transform commercial digital cameras to produce color infrared aerial photos that can measure the extent of vegetative cover. Credit: Raymond Hunt, ARS.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and David Linden, a technical consultant currently serving as a chief scientist at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in McLean, Va., have jointly patented technology that transforms commercial digital cameras to color infrared cameras for aerial photography.

Raymond Hunt, a physical scientist at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., and Linden did this by choosing a 12-megapixel camera sold without an internal filter that blocks near-infrared (NIR) light. They then added a custom-made lens filter to block red light and transmit NIR. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

The patented method allows photographing with light in the NIR, green and blue bands, which are used to measure the "greenness" of vegetation and extent of crop canopy cover. There is no need for further processing, so the images are available immediately upon landing. The cameras are also lighter and more compact than the traditional larger format cameras used for aerial infrared photography.

Hunt and Dean Hively, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist stationed at Beltsville, have found the photographs useful for detecting the extent of farmland in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed that is protected from by and other winter .

Hunt and Hively are seeking to increase the spatial resolution to identify plant species and to measure the amount of chlorophyll in a single leaf of a crop. The scientists use their cameras aboard both airplanes and small (UAVs). UAVs can fly as low as a few hundred feet. Currently, UAVs cannot be flown for commercial use. The U.S. is developing rules and regulations on UAVs for safe applications.

Chlorophyll in leaves may indicate the amount of nutrients in the soil, so aerial imagery may be a way to help farmers save money by applying fertilizers more efficiently, which also helps protect the Chesapeake Bay.

Read more about this research in the September 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Hunt, Hively, Linden, and colleagues have published papers on this research in the Agronomy Journal and Remote Sensing.

Explore further: Cleaning the Chesapeake Bay from space

Related Stories

Cleaning the Chesapeake Bay from space

August 31, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A pilot test of an innovative use of new remote sensing technologies to aid the Chesapeake Bay cleanup begins this year in Talbot County, Md., on the Bay's Eastern Shore.

Aerial Imagery System Helps Save Water

September 15, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are developing a system that saves water by using aerial imagery and ground-based sensors to determine the irrigation needs of small sections of cultivated fields.

Digital cameras open new view of America's West

September 6, 2011

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aerial photography survey of 38,000 wildfire-burned acres in Idaho provided what is believed to be the first evidence that the invasive leafy spurge weed is displacing seedlings of ...

CEAP study examines nitrogen, copper levels in Bay watershed

August 20, 2010

A comprehensive study of pollutants in a major Chesapeake Bay tributary revealed troublesome levels of nitrogen and copper that could flow into the Bay, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their ...

The future of cover crops

July 13, 2011

Winter cover crops are an important component of nutrient cycling, soil cover and organic matter content. Although its benefits are well documented, cover crop use in farming systems is relatively low. Research has shown ...

Recommended for you

US scientists raise bar for sea level by 2100

January 24, 2017

In the last days of Barack Obama's administration, US government scientists warned even more sea level rise is expected by century's end than previously estimated, due to rapid ice sheet melting at the poles.

Meteorites did not enrich ocean life: study

January 24, 2017

An explosion of ocean life some 471 million years ago was not sparked by a meteorite bombardment of Earth, said a study Tuesday that challenges a leading theory.

Swarm of underwater robots mimics ocean life

January 24, 2017

Underwater robots developed by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego offer scientists an extraordinary new tool to study ocean currents and the tiny creatures they transport. ...

Are we ready for another massive volcanic eruption?

January 24, 2017

An enormous volcanic eruption would not necessarily plunge the world into a new societal crisis, according to a new study of the biggest eruption of the last millennium published in Nature Geoscience.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Henrik44
5 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2011
Patented technique?

Amateur-astronomer originally invented the stacking-technique for high resolution photography, which was adopted by professional astronomers as "Lucky Imaging"

Amateurs have been modifiyng DSLR cameras for half a decade now, and several telescope suppliers offers filters for this purpose.
The NIR2blue filter has also been used in professional areal photography for years.

What is there to patent? :o)

/Best regards
Henrik

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.