Estimation of soil moisture from UAS platforms using RGB and thermal imaging sensors in arid and semi-arid regions

 Soil moisture (SM) is a connective hydrological variable between the Earth’s surface and atmosphere and affects various climatological processes. Surface soil moisture (SSM) is a key component for addressing energy and water exchanges and can be estimated using different techniques, such as in situ and remote sensing (RS) measurements. Discrete, costly and prolonged, in situ measurements are rarely capable in demonstration of moisture fluctuations. On the other hand, current high spatial resolution satellite sensors lack the spectral resolution required for many quantitative RS applications, which is critical for heterogeneous covers. RS-based unmanned aerial systems (UASs) represent an option to fill the gap between these techniques, providing low-cost approaches to meet the critical requirements of spatial, spectral and temporal resolutions. In the present study, SM was estimated through a UAS equipped with a thermal imaging sensor. To this aim, in October 2018, two airborne campaigns during day and night were carried out with the thermal sensor for the estimation of the apparent thermal inertia (ATI) over an agricultural field in Iran. Simultaneously, SM measurements were obtained in 40 sample points in the different parts of the study area. Results showed a good correlation (R2=0.81) between the estimated and observed SM in the field. This study demonstrates the potential of UASs in providing high-resolution thermal imagery with the aim to monitor SM over bare and scarcely vegetated soils. A case study based in a wide agricultural field in Iran was considered, where SM monitoring is even more critical due to the arid and semi-arid climate, the lack of adequate SM measuring stations, and the poor quality of the available data. 

How to cite: Paridad, P., S.F. Dal Sasso, A. Pizarro, L. Mita, M. Fiorentino, M.R. Margiotta, F. Faridani, A. Farid, and S. Manfreda, Estimation of soil moisture from UAS platforms using RGB and thermal imaging sensors in arid and semi-arid regionsACTA Horticulture, 1335, 339-348, (DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2022.1335.42), 2022. [pdf]

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