ASSESSMENT OF RGB AND HYPERSPECTRAL UAV REMOTE SENSING FOR GRASS QUANTITY AND QUALITY ESTIMATION
Keywords: hyperspectral, UAV, photogrammetry, precision agriculture, grass sward, biomass, machine learning
Abstract. The information on the grass quantity and quality is needed for several times in a growing season for making optimal decisions about the harvesting time and the fertiliser rate, especially in northern countries, where grass swards quality declines and yield increases rapidly in the primary growth. We studied the potential of UAV-based photogrammetry and spectral imaging in grass quality and quantity estimation. To study this, a trial site with large variation in the quantity and quality parameters was established by using different nitrogen fertilizer application rates and harvesting dates. UAV-based remote sensing datasets were captured four times during the primary growth season in June 2017 and agricultural reference measurements including dry biomass and quality parameters, such as the digestibility (D-value) were collected simultaneously. The datasets were captured using a flying height of 50 m which provided a GSD of 0.7 cm for the photogrammetric imagery and 5 cm for the hyperspectral imagery. A rigorous photogrammetric workflow was carried out for all data sets aiming to determine the image exterior orientation parameters, camera interior orientation parameters, 3D point clouds and orthomosaics. The quantitative radiometric calibration included sensor corrections, atmospheric correction, and correction for the radiometric non-uniformities caused by illumination variations, BRDF correction and the absolute reflectance transformation. Random forest (RF) and multilinear regression (MLR) estimators were trained using spectral bands, vegetation indices and 3D features, extracted from the remote sensing datasets, and insitu reference measurements. From the FPI hyperspectral data, the 35 spectral bands and 11 spectral indices were used. The 3D features were extracted from the canopy height model (CHM) generated using RGB data. The most accurate results were obtained in the second measurement day (15th June) which was near to the optimal harvesting time and generally RF outperformed MLR slightly. When assessed with the leave-one-out-estimation, the best root mean squared error (RMSE%) were 8.9% for the dry biomass using 3D features. The best D-value estimation using RF algorithm (RMSE% = 0.87%) was obtained using spectral features. Using the estimators, we then calculated grass quality and quantity maps covering the entire test site to compare different techniques and to evaluate the variability in the field. The results showed that the low-cost drone remote sensing gave excellent precision both for biomass and quality parameter estimation if accurately calibrated, offering an excellent tool for efficient and accurate management of silage grass production.