Airborne Remote Sensing, an Essential Tool to Simulate, Validate and Support Satellite Earth Observation Missions
Llewellyn, Gary1; Groom, Steve2; Dash, Jadu3
1Natural Environment Research Council (ARSF), UNITED KINGDOM; 2Plymouth Marine Laboratory (NERC ARSF-DAN), UNITED KINGDOM; 3University of Southampton (School of Geography), UNITED KINGDOM

The UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Airborne Research and Survey Facility has supported ESA missions since its formation in 1982. This has been in data product development, data validation and as an airborne demonstrator for new sensors. This paper will present examples of research that we have supported, including:

  • The detection and mapping of algae in Lake Balaton, Hungary (2010).

  • Identification of bird habitats in Portugal (STEPPEBIRD 2006 & 2011).

  • Validation of the MERIS Terrestrial Chlorophyll Index (MTCI) product and development for the future Sentinel 2 & 3 missions (e.g. Sicily 2010) and preparation of data products for the Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program (EnMAP) and PRecursore IperSpettrale della Missione Applicativa (PRISMA).

  • Eradicating ponded water from satellite-based assessments of sea ice in the Arctic Sea (82o N) to account for underestimates of sea ice in satellite data (2003).

    Within the EC Framework 7 European Fleet for Airborne Research (EUFAR) project the ARSF was the most requested aircraft and supported more projects than any other. The uniqueness of the facility is its capability for the simultaneous measurement with multiple remote sensing instruments (including hyperspectral visible, short-wave infra-red and thermal infra-red, and LiDAR with full-waveform digitisation) and its flexibility and versatility of operation. The contiguous narrow spectral bands (~2nm) allow signals from satellite sensors to be modelled and therefore allow a direct validation of data and the simulation of future systems. These factors have allowed it to support research in terrestrial ecology, agriculture, hydrology, geomorphology, geology, marine science and atmospheric science. Although most work is in Europe, operations have been as far as Australia, Chile, Svalbard and Ethiopia.