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Optimizing the airborne thermal detection of possums

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Brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) in New Zealand cause degeneration of indigenous forest and spread tuberculosis to farm cattle. Trapping is currently used to assess possum populations for planning and evaluating control operations. A potentially cheaper method is the thermal imaging of possums using airborne cameras (i.e. aerial thermography). In this paper, we investigate the physical principles of possum detection using aerial thermography to provide a sound basis for choosing environmental conditions and remote sensing parameters. There are two main findings. On nights with little wind, possums maintain a brightness temperature difference of over 4 deg K with their environment, which is easily detected by cameras operating in either the 3-5 or 8-12m thermal bands. Possums near the canopy top are easily seen in night-time aerial thermography providing the aircraft flies low enough (< 200 m for an IFOV of 1.5 mrad) to place at least one pixel fully on the possum and slow enough (< 80 km h-1 for a field of view of 15o) for the possum to be on screen for at least 2s.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Landcare Research, Private Bag 11052, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Publication date: 2000-11-20

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