A Hyperspectral View of Western Australia's Ningaloo Reef

February 15, 2017

Headwall's hyperspectral imaging sensors are used around the globe for a wide variety of remote sensing missions. Hyperspectral sensors can see well beyond the limits of human vision, which runs to about 700 nanometers (nm). Many of the scientific research projects demand the ability to see into the infrared ranges, often up to and beyond 2500nm.

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What can you see beyond the limits of human vision? Most importantly, the early signs of stress and disease on plants and vegetation becomes visible with enough time to mitigate the problem. Crops can be saved, which itself holds enormous financial benefit to industry and regional economies. Scientific learning about geological deposits and climatology is also improved through the use of hyperspectral imaging in the infrared ranges. The sensors can collect literally hundreds of spectral bands per pixel, meaning the amount of useful data is enormous. The telltale sign of a disease condition on a crop tree would be missed by human vision but is easily seen through the lens of a hyperspectral sensor. That's because light reflects differently based on the chemical composition of a diseased leaf versus a non-diseased one.

In Australia, Headwall's hyperspectral sensors are hard at work examining the Ningaloo Reef. The small size and weight of the Hyperspec® sensor allows them to be carried aboard today's newer multi-rotor and fixed-wing UAVs. The UAV is a preferred platform for mounting scientific sensing instruments because they are more affordable and tactically efficient for these kinds of missions.

The overall health of the reef coral can be seen with a tremendous amount of clarity, allowing scientists to spot unwanted environmental trends long before they become a problem.