Headwall Photonics Blog

Hyperspectral and Remote Sensing the focus at EARSeL!

Posted by Christopher Van Veen on Wed, Apr 03, 2013

Headwall's exhibition schedule kicks into high gear this month. First up is our appearance at the 8th Imaging Spectrometry Workshop, sponsored by The European Association of Remote Sensing Laboratories (EARSeL). This event gives visitors the opportunity to understand how hyperspectral imaging can be a valuable scientific tool for the research community. Precision agriculture, mining & minerals, petroleum pipeline surveillance, and disaster mitigation are just a few application areas and more are uncovered all the time as the technology becomes more affordable and easier to use.

EARSeL blog photoHeadwall is seeing a meteoric rise in the use of small and light UAVs for remote sensing activities. SkyJib (from Droidworx) and the Mk II by Winehawk Labs are two such examples, and you’ll see both at EARSeL. The more nimble these hand-launched airframes get, the smaller and lighter the sensors themselves need to be. Headwall’s collaborative engineering approach gives customers a fast path to success with lightweight solutions that also include integrated application software and a GPS/INS. The beauty of Headwall’s Micro Hyperspec sensor is that it is purpose-engineered for flight. Besides being rugged, it also provides outstanding spatial and spectral resolution in the NIR (900nm-1700nm) and VNIR (380nm-1000nm) ranges while also having a very wide field of view. A wide field-of-view means a more efficient the flight path. In other words, the UAVs can cover more territory by collecting precise spectral detail not only directly below but also off to the sides.

While small, hand-launched UAVs are perfect for a wide range of scientific exploration activities, fixed-wing aircraft ranging from the Cessna to the Twin Otter are also used as a platform for hyperspectral sensors. Headwall’s High-Efficiency Hyperspec sensor covers the NIR (900nm - 1700nm) and SWIR   (950nm - 2500nm) spectral ranges. Aberration-corrected and completely athermalized, it provides the highest optical performance and diffraction efficiency of greater than 90%. We’ll be showing this at EARSeL also.

Later in April…beginning on the 3oth actually…Headwall will be at the Defense, Security + Sensing show in Baltimore. We’ll be in Booth 1830 at the Baltimore Convention Center for DSS, which is quickly becoming the go-to show for all things related to surveillance and reconnaissance. While the interest here is largely airborne, visitors also want to know about ground-based and hand-held hyperspectral sensors. Headwall’s flagship hand-held sensor is Hyperspec RECON, which won the R&D100 Award in 2012. This portable instrument covers the VNIR (380nm-1000 nm) spectral range and can render a 6-inch sq. hyperspectral scene at a distance of over a kilometer. Best of all, it’s easy to use and can be ‘tuned’ by loading spectral libraries via an integrated SD slot. Hyperspec RECON represents a very flexible reconnaissance platform that can also be used in a stationary manner (mounted to a mast or a vehicle, for example).

While Hyperspec RECON and its handheld ingenuity is a groundbreaking achievement, many applications need instruments that can either point-and-stare’ or ‘pan-and-tilt.’ Headwall has sensors for both types of deployment that exhibit the very same aberration-corrected concentric imaging performance as their airborne counterparts. Since hyperspectral imaging depends on movement to occur, the instruments are motorized and fully engineered for the tasks they are challenged with.

Headwall will be at several exhibitions and conferences throughout 2013 aside from the two described here. These events will serve as excellent venues as we come out with new products and enhanced versions of existing ones.

 


 

Tags: hyperspectral imaging, hyperspectral, Headwall Photonics, Airborne, DSS, Remote Sensing, Sensors, Micro Hyperspec, Sensing, UAV, ALAVA Ingenieros

Resource Exploration Using Hyperspectral Imaging

Posted by Christopher Van Veen on Wed, Dec 19, 2012

Headwall utilizes hyperspectral sensing technology as an essential industrial inspection platform and has made this technology increasingly valuable across a wider spectrum of commercial applications and most notably in the oil & gas industry.  Companies in the petro-chemical industry focus much of their financial capital and effort on efficient pipeline distribution, refinery operations, and environmental monitoring.  Not only for exploration, but also to keep to keep their refining and distribution infrastructure safe.

hyperspectral analysisSo how can hyperspectral sensors help?  The lessons and knowledge gained from the remote sensing applications are directly applicable to the challenges faced by oil & gas companies as very remote and harsh territories are managed for energy production.  The data-rich imagery produced by a airborne and ground-based hyperspectral sensor can provide answers to some of the most pressing questions:

  • Are pipelines being properly monitored for structural integrity and vegetation encroachment?
  • Are pipelines leaking products such as methane?
  • Is there environmental damage that cannot readily be observed?
  • Does a particular area hold exploration value?

In practically every case, these questions are posed with respect to some of the most remote and desolate territory around. The upper reaches of Canada, Siberia, and within the Arctic Circle to name just three.  It’s practically impossible to simply drive over this rugged ice and permafrost terrain, which is why companies in the petro-chemical industry invest so heavily in airborne assets such as fixed-wing aircraft and UAVs as well as invest in satellite-based remote sensing data.

PipelineHyperspectral sensors measure the intensity of solar energy reflected from materials over hundreds of wavelengths from the visible-near infrared (VNIR) to the long wave infrared (LWIR) spectral region. They can record visible light (comprised of relatively short wavelengths such as blue, green, and red) as well as longer, near-infrared, and short wave-infrared light. Reflected light is collected into picture elements (pixels) by flying the imaging sensor over terrain. The reflected visible and infrared light is subdivided into 100 to 200+ discrete wavelength bands within each pixel.

Headwall has developed a leading position in the manufacture and deployment of small, lightweight hyperspectral sensors that are specifically designed for the small, low flying UAVs being deployed. Not only are the sensors small but they generate high resolution spectral and spatial imagery.  The patented, aberration-corrected design of the Micro-Hyperspec sensor allows UAVs to make fewer passes over a certain geographical area while eliminating image aberrations.

Crude oil can be ‘seen’ by hyperspectral sensors operating in the visible/near-infrared spectral bands. A phenomenon known as ‘micro-leakage’ yields hydrocarbon components in the surface soil and water, which the sensors can detect. There is a correlation between ‘micro-leakage’ and the probability of an oil or gas reservoir; detecting the presence of hydrocarbon is a technical means of making that correlation. Doing so from a UAV means a much more efficient collection of useful data as the sensor can be designed to ‘discriminate’ and ‘see’ precisely what geologists are hoping to see based on the spectral signatures of interest.

Disaster mitigationOther useful deployments of hyperspectral include looking at the state of vegetation stress near oil and gas pipelines. With legislation such as California’s “cap & trade” regulations being implemented, managing pipeline content and distribution network integrity carries financial implications for the producers.  With this requirement, the detection of methane from pipeline leaks becomes critical.  With pipelines several thousand miles long, airborne analysis is the only real way to collect actionable data rapidly and with some frequency.

Finally, oil and gas exploration companies are using hyperspectral sensors as a means of environmentally monitoring.  This is very important as environmental changes are often much noticeable utilizing hyperspectral sensor technology to identify spectral anomalies.

In the situation of a spill, hyperspectral sensing can be invaluable in monitoring and prioritizing clean-up efforts. Over the course of time, the sensors can report on trends…both positively and negatively. Again, the ability of hyperspectral sensors to discriminate means more meaningful, actionable data delivered from a cost-effective sensor platform such as Headwall’s Hyperspec imaging sensors.

Mineral mappingWhile the petroleum industry sees value in airborne hyperspectral sensing, so do companies in the minerals/mining industry. Because the cost to explore is prohibitive, innovation at the ‘front end’ means better exploration efficiency. The ability to distill large geographical areas into smaller land packages using airborne hyperspectral sensing means that the more costly assessments can be done where airborne sensing suggests a high probability of success exists.

During the exploration process, hyperspectral sensing can identify the presence of certain minerals such as iron ore and can also ‘grade’ them with a high degree of precision. A weathered environment can also hide the presence of valuable mineral deposits from normal explorative techniques, while hyperspectral sensing can unmask them. This mineral map for the Yeelirrie district of Australia demonstrates the ability of hyperspectral imaging to identify mineral assemblages in the presence of intense weathering. This particular map is indicative of calcrete-hosted Uranium.

 

 

Tags: hyperspectral imaging, hyperspectral, Airborne, Remote Sensing, Sensors, Sensing

Remote Sensing: All Eyes on Munich

Posted by Christopher Van Veen on Fri, Jul 20, 2012

The IEEE is an esteemed organization with top-notch events held worldwide. These events draw experts from across industry, government and education.

One of these events is happening next week, in Munich, Germany. The IEEE's International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS) will probably see its biggest attendance ever, as the evolution of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) melds with needs of the remote sensing community. Headwall Photonics will be in booth #18.

IGARSS 2012Much of what scientists want to analyze is best done from above. This holds true for oceanography, atmospheric research, precision agriculture, minerals and mining, and forestry management. Now that commercial UAVs are becoming more affordable and regulations governing their use more ‘mainstream,’ the door is wide open for a fascinating amount of quality research helped along by these small, pilotless aircraft.

Hyperspectral sensors represent a highly desired piece of precision instrumentation carried aloft by UAVs. Why? Because they can extract a tremendous amount of data based on the spectral makeup of what is within the field of view. What the human eye—or even infrared—cannot see, hyperspectral sensors can. Small, lightweight, and extremely precise, Headwall’s Micro Hyperspec is favored for its ability to offer several attractive capabilities. First is its tall slit, which gives the sensor a wide field of view. The wider the field of view, the more precise the hyperspectral data is from a given altitude. Looking down Hyperspectral imaging from UAVsfrom above, UAVs can make fewer passes over a plot of land if the resolution to either side of the flight path is very wide. In short, more territory can be covered in less time.

Another highly desired characteristic is spatial and spectral resolution, which determines how faithful the hyperspectral data is. The beauty of a hyperspectral sensor is that it can delineate what it ‘sees’ with a tremendous degree of resolution. For example, higher resolution can mean the difference between simply distinguishing disease conditions and determining what those diseases are. Or, determining good soil conditions from bad.

While affordable UAVs are all the rage at present, the beauty of hyperspectral imaging is that instruments can be made small and rugged to fit specific payload requirements. 'Size, Weight & Power' (referred to as 'SWaP) describes the continuous desire to make payloads as small, lightweight, and as power-efficient as possible. These characteristics hold true for any airborne vehicle aside from a UAV, whether a fixed-wing aircraft, a high-altitude reconnaissance plane, or a satellite. Headwall Photonics has hyperspectral instruments deployed successfully in all these platforms.

 

 


Tags: hyperspectral imaging, hyperspectral, Headwall Photonics, Airborne, Remote Sensing, Sensors, Sensing, Satellites, UAV, agriculture

Satellite Hyperspectral Sensing Boosts Environmental Research

Posted by David Bannon on Wed, May 16, 2012

Last week, I participated in the bi-annual Earth Observation Business Network 2012 (EOBN) conference, a small group of industry leaders brought together in Vancouver, British Columbia and sponsored by MDA of Canada.  A tip of the hat to John Hornsby, MDA VP of GeoSpatial Strategies and his team, who hosted a very informative and interactive conference.

This year’s EOBN theme was "Operational Decision Making From Earth Observation." The conference featured application sessions from both government and industry leaders who addressed the tactical impact and requirements of satellite and airborne imagery. From aviation to land surveillance/intelligence to the Arctic and Antarctic, leading end-users and providers offered their unique perspective of capabilities and requirements for remote sensing and earth sciences.

It is clear that remote sensing capability is not only a critical and strategic capability for nations, but also for commercial satellite providers developing advanced data products and imaging services. The challenges of working within such harsh environments as the Arctic Circle – whether maritime transport or mineral exploration – require data products that are fused with satellite and spectral imagery.

Arctic Exploration

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Source: CBC

With our current ability to provide hyperspectral sensor payloads for small satellites covering the VNIR (380 -1000 nm) and SWIR (950 – 1000 nm), it is clear that Headwall will continue to play an expanding role in the development of remote sensing capabilities throughout the world.

Tags: hyperspectral imaging, Headwall Photonics, Airborne, Remote Sensing, SWIR, VNIR, Satellites

Headwall's Hyperpectral Sensors Soar at DSS

Posted by Christopher Van Veen on Thu, Apr 26, 2012

The Defense, Security + Sensing (DSS) show moved from its traditional Orlando venue to Baltimore this year. Flush with technology-driven agencies, the Baltimore-Washington area is a natural magnet for a show such as DSS.

DSS 2012 BaltimoreThe first two days at DSS have been amazing for Headwall, with visitors drawn by the sight of the Insitu 'ScanEagle' UAV. This impressive aircraft is one example of a typical platform that can easily deploy Headwall's 'Micro Hyperspec' hyperspectral sensor. Size, weight, and power-consumption specifications (SWaP) for any payload need to be carefully balanced when it comes to deployment on any mission-critical UAV. So far during the three-day DSS show, the ability to demonstrate our lightweight sensor aboard ScanEagle is proving the point better than any photograph could!

Closer to the ground, Hyperspec RECON is drawing tremendous interest from technologists who need a portable, simple-to-use hyperspectral sensor that can be deployed on the battlefield. Hyperspec RECON can render a 6" x 6" hyperspectral scene at a distance of 1.5 km and process that image data in only a few seconds. Using a spectral library of known signatures, RECON is able to immediately identify them within the field of view. Aberration-corrected imaging technology combined with robust, fast data-processing software give our troops immediate, accurate, and actionable hyperspectral data in the field of battle.

DSS wraps up later today at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Tags: hyperspectral imaging, hyperspectral, Headwall Photonics, Airborne, DSS, Defense

Hyperspectral Imaging Heads to Baltimore for DSS!

Posted by Christopher Van Veen on Fri, Apr 20, 2012

DSSDSS--Defense, Security + Sensing--is the world's largest unclassified event for defense, security, and sensing applications for industry and the environment, and we'll be there in Booth 2220 starting Tuesday April 24.

DSS relocated from Orlando to Baltimore for 2012. The move from Orlando is a good one because it will bring in more experts than ever in the fields of homeland security, defense, and environmental sensing. Here, they'll gain visibility for their work and products and receive face-to-face feedback from their peers.

Hyperspec RECON

DSS is a premiere event on the Headwall Photonics show schedule. New this year will be a product called Hyperspec RECON, which is a portable yet rugged hyperspectral sensor that can render a 6" x 6" target at distances of up to 1.5km. We'll have the RECON system on display and operational, so be sure to take a look!

One of the most critical applications for hyperspectral technology in the field of defense, security and sensing is aboard airborne platforms such as the ScanEagle from Insitu. We'll have an actual ScanEagle in our booth, courtesy ofScanEagle by Insitu Insitu, to demonstrate how our lightweight Micro Hyperspec sensors can be deployed in packages where size, weight, and power (SWaP) need to be optimized.

We look forward to seeing you at DSS starting April 24!

Tags: hyperspectral imaging, hyperspectral, Headwall Photonics, Airborne, DSS, Defense, Micro Hyperspec, Sensing, Security, Insitu

Small UAVs - Precision agriculture & hyperspectral remote sensing

Posted by David Bannon on Mon, Apr 09, 2012

Micro Hyperspec UAV Picture 2Offering improvements in agricultural yields and precision farming, hyperspectral sensors allow producers and processors to make the foods we eat safer along with providing the advantages of higher quality and hopefully, better taste.  Based in Massachusetts, Headwall Photonics, designs and manufactures small, lightweight sensors that are deployed aboard airborne platforms ranging from piloted aircraft to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). With experience developed within the military sector, the company has established quite a business enabling the commercial use of very small, cost-effective UAVs for remote sensing and agriculture applications.

In the same way that food-processing lines are evolving from straight-forward machine-vision systems to spectral imaging, many agriculturalists and food producers are moving beyond simple appearance and color measurement to more advanced hyperspectral imaging. The richness of the data collected offers farmers a sense of what to plant, where to plant, and when to harvest. High-value crops such as pecans, grapes, walnuts and others need to be managed with precision to yield a profitable harvest. Nutrient levels, ripeness, and disease conditions can be ‘seen’ by hyperspectral sensors based on the chemical “fingerprint” of the crops rather than on the visual appearance; thus offering the ability to implement cost-effective solutions early in the growth cycle of the harvest.

Since these imaging sensors can be and are rapidly being deployed aboard inexpensive UAVs, hundreds of acres can be surveyed and monitored very quickly. The data-processing power coupled to these hyperspectral sensors means that more actionable crop and agricultural information can be obtained. The result is better overall crop management across the farming and food production industries. Where famine relief is acute, airborne hyperspectral sensors quickly lead to better decisions about what crops to plant, where to plant them, and when to harvest them. The specific ‘spectral signatures’ of diseased plants, contaminants, and ripeness conditions mean that hyperspectral technology can clearly be used to ensure healthier foods for all and a more profitable and timely crop harvest.

As a previous topic, Headwall mentioned an important specialty crop in the United States being grape production and vineyard management. One of Headwall’s hyperspectral customers, VineView Scientific Aerial Imaging, is a company that uses high-resolution, scientifically calibrated data products to assist framers in crop uniformity optimization, irrigation management, and harvest planning. “Hyperspectral data allows us to provide more specific actionable information to our clients who manage high-value crops,” said Dr. Matthew Staid, President of Saint Helena, CA-based VineView. The Headwall airborne hyperspectral sensors can be mounted on small UAVs or manned aircraft and means that VineView cannot only map vigor or stress within crops but can better identify the specific causes of those stresses. 

Headwall continues to advance the agriculture and remote sensing industries through the deployment of cost-effective hyeprspectral sensors that have a positive impact on farmers, food processors, and agricultural research scientists around the world.

To speak with an application engineer, click here ...

Tags: hyperspectral imaging, Airborne, Remote Sensing, SWIR, agriculture

Surveying the Land Below: Hyperspectral Sensors go Airborne

Posted by Christopher Van Veen on Wed, Mar 14, 2012

Remote sensing is a very important application and perhaps the 'killer app' for hyperspectral imaging technology, particularly when it comes to airborne scientific techniques. With traditional roots in research, Headwall’s airborne hyperspectral sensors are considered an industry-standard research tool and have been routinely utilized for the study of such topics as climate change, environmental mapping and monitoring, biodiversity research, and studies of the effects of carbon emissions on the environment.
 
Headwall’s experience is that it often takes approximately 10 years for technology to roll out of the military/defense markets and be ready for commercial applications. One particular market note is the use of Headwall’s hyperspectral sensors for commercial remote sensing applications. This is proving to be a very large and significant market. For example, one of Headwall’s customers is VineView, a commercial airborne company located in California with a focus on providing precision agriculture information and aerial imagery to more than 800 vineyards in the western United States. Dr. Matthew Staid, President of VineView Scientific Aerial Imaging, is a leader in the utilization of hyperspectral imaging for the management of 'high-value crops.'  His company provides airborne remote sensing services to the winegrape industry consisting of hyperspectral, thermal, and infrared sensing data for precision farming and profitable agricultural management of vineyards.
 
VineViewVineView’s sensor needs are focused in two key areas – very high spatial resolution coupled with extremely fast data processing.  One key attribute of hyperspectral imaging is the amount of spectral and spatial data collected. To capitalize on the inherent value of hyperspectral data requires an ability to rapidly process all this data into a geo-rectified data set. Airborne hyperspectral solutions require high performance, aberration-corrected sensors as well as hyperspectral data-processing units to collect and 'package' this data.  These rapid data-acquisition capabilities allow VineView to expand aerial services beyond the winegrape industry and into areas such as citrus production, tree nuts, and cotton.
 
With the ability to 'see' beyond the visible spectrum of 380nm to 780nm, Headwall’s hyperspectral imagers are readily available and optimized for many different spectral regions to a base of worldwide customers. One common configuration deployed by a number of remote sensing customers is the use of a Hyperspec VNIR sensor and a Hyperspec SWIR sensor to cover the broad spectrum of 380 to 2500 nm.
Tags: Headwall Photonics, Airborne, Remote Sensing, Sensors, VineView