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Open Access Acquisition, Orthorectification, and Object-based Classification of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Imagery for Rangeland Monitoring

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The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for natural resource applications has increased considerably in recent years due to their greater availability, the miniaturization of sensors, and the ability to deploy a UAV relatively quickly and repeatedly at low altitudes. We examine in this paper the potential of using a small UAV for rangeland inventory, assessment and monitoring. Imagery with a ground resolved distance of 8 cm was acquired over a 290 ha site in southwestern Idaho. We developed a semi-automated orthorectification procedure suitable for handling large numbers of small-footprint UAV images. The geometric accuracy of the orthorectified image mosaics ranged from 1.5 m to 2 m. We used object-based hierarchical image analysis to classify imagery of plots measured concurrently on the ground using standard rangeland monitoring procedures. Correlations between image-and ground-based estimates of percent cover resulted in r-squared values ranging from 0.86 to 0.98. Time estimates indicated a greater efficiency for the image-based method compared to ground measurements. The overall classification accuracies for the two image mosaics were 83 percent and 88 percent. Even under the current limitations of operating a UAV in the National Airspace, the results of this study show that UAVs can be used successfully to obtain imagery for rangeland monitoring, and that the remote sensing approach can either complement or replace some ground-based measurements. We discuss details of the UAV mission, image processing and analysis, and accuracy assessment.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2010

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  • The official journal of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing - the Imaging and Geospatial Information Society (ASPRS). This highly respected publication covers all facets of photogrammetry and remote sensing methods and technologies.

    Founded in 1934, the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) is a scientific association serving over 7,000 professional members around the world. Our mission is to advance knowledge and improve understanding of mapping sciences to promote the responsible applications of photogrammetry, remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and supporting technologies.
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