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Smart Agriculture ›› 2020, Vol. 2 ›› Issue (1): 1-22.doi: 10.12133/j.smartag.2020.2.1.201909-SA004

• Topic--Agricultural Remote Sensing and Phenotyping Information Acquisition Analysis • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Airborne remote sensing systems for precision agriculture applications

Yang Chenghai()   

  1. U. S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Southern Plans Agricultural Research Center, College Station, Texas 77845, USA
  • Received:2019-09-24 Revised:2019-12-07 Online:2020-03-30
  • About author:Chenghai Yang(1962-), Research Agricultural Engineer, research interests: remote sensing for precision agriculture and pest management, Tel: 1-979-260-9530.


Remote sensing has been used as an important data acquisition tool for precision agriculture for decades. Based on their height above the earth, remote sensing platforms mainly include satellites, manned aircraft, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and ground-based vehicles. A vast majority of sensors carried on these platforms are imaging sensors, though other sensors such as lidars can be mounted. In recent years, advances in satellite imaging sensors have greatly narrowed the gaps in spatial, spectral and temporal resolutions with aircraft-based sensors. More recently, the availability of UAS as a low-cost remote sensing platform has significantly filled the gap between manned aircraft and ground-based platforms. Nevertheless, manned aircraft remain to be a major remote sensing platform and offer some advantages over satellites or UAS. Compared with UAS, manned aircraft have flexible flight height, fast speed, large payload capacity, long flight time, few flight restrictions and great weather tolerance. The first section of the article provided an overview of the types of remote sensors and the three major remote sensing platforms (i.e., satellites, manned aircraft and UAS). The next two sections focused on manned aircraft-based airborne imaging systems that have been used for precision agriculture, including those consisting of consumer-grade cameras mounted on agricultural aircraft. Numerous custom-made and commercial airborne imaging systems were reviewed, including multispectral, hyperspectral and thermal cameras. Five application examples were provided in the fourth section to illustrate how different types of remote sensing imagery have been used for crop growth assessment and crop pest management for practical precision agriculture applications. Finally, some challenges and future efforts on the use of different platforms and imaging systems for precision agriculture were briefly discussed.

Key words: airborne imaging system, manned aircraft, multispectral imagery, hyperspectral imagery, thermal imagery, precision agriculture

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