INTRODUCING A LOW-COST MINI-UAV FOR THERMAL- AND MULTISPECTRAL-IMAGING
Keywords: Agriculture, Sensor, Multisensor, Multispectral, Thermal, Imagery, Small
Abstract. The trend to minimize electronic devices also accounts for Unmanned Airborne Vehicles (UAVs) as well as for sensor technologies and imaging devices. Consequently, it is not surprising that UAVs are already part of our daily life and the current pace of development will increase civil applications. A well known and already wide spread example is the so called flying video game based on Parrot's AR.Drone which is remotely controlled by an iPod, iPhone, or iPad (http://ardrone.parrot.com). The latter can be considered as a low-weight and low-cost Mini-UAV. In this contribution a Mini-UAV is considered to weigh less than 5 kg and is being able to carry 0.2 kg to 1.5 kg of sensor payload. While up to now Mini-UAVs like Parrot's AR.Drone are mainly equipped with RGB cameras for videotaping or imaging, the development of such carriage systems clearly also goes to multi-sensor platforms like the ones introduced for larger UAVs (5 to 20 kg) by Jaakkolla et al. (2010) for forestry applications or by Berni et al. (2009) for agricultural applications. The problem when designing a Mini-UAV for multi-sensor imaging is the limitation of payload of up to 1.5 kg and a total weight of the whole system below 5 kg. Consequently, the Mini-UAV without sensors but including navigation system and GPS sensors must weigh less than 3.5 kg. A Mini-UAV system with these characteristics is HiSystems' MK-Okto (www.mikrokopter.de). Total weight including battery without sensors is less than 2.5 kg. Payload of a MK-Okto is approx. 1 kg and maximum speed is around 30 km/h. The MK-Okto can be operated up to a wind speed of less than 19 km/h which corresponds to Beaufort scale number 3 for wind speed. In our study, the MK-Okto is equipped with a handheld low-weight NEC F30IS thermal imaging system. The F30IS which was developed for veterinary applications, covers 8 to 13 μm, weighs only 300 g, and is capturing the temperature range between −20 °C and 100 °C. Flying at a height of 100 m, the camera's image covers an area of approx. 50 by 40 m. The sensor's resolution is 160 x 120 pixel and the field of view is 28° (H) x 21° (V). According to the producer, absolute accuracy for temperature is ±1 °C and the thermal sensitivity is >0.1 K. Additionally, the MK-Okto is equipped with Tetracam's Mini MCA. The Mini MCA in our study is a four band multispectral imaging system. Total weight is 700 g and spectral characteristics can be modified by filters between 400 and 1000 nm. In this study, three bands with a width of 10 nm (green: 550 nm, red: 671 nm, NIR1: 800 nm) and one band of 20 nm width (NIR2: 950 nm) have been used. Even so the MK-Okto is able to carry both sensors at the same time, the imaging systems were used separately for this contribution. First results of a combined thermal- and multispectral MK-Okto campaign in 2011 are presented and evaluated for a sugarbeet field experiment examining pathogens and drought stress.