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Radiometric Calibration of ‘Commercial off the Shelf’ Cameras for UAV-Based High-Resolution Temporal Crop Phenotyping of Reflectance and NDVI

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Fenner Howard Holman, Martin John Wooster, Malcolm Hawkesford, Andrew Riche, March Castle

Original languageEnglish
Article number1657
Issue number14
Early online date11 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


King's Authors


Vegetation indices, such as the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), are common metrics used for measuring traits of interest in crop phenotyping. However, traditional measurements of these indices are often influenced by multiple confounding factors such as canopy cover and reflectance of underlying soil, visible in canopy gaps. Digital cameras mounted to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles offer the spatial resolution to investigate these confounding factors, however incomplete methods for radiometric calibration into reflectance units limits how the data can be applied to phenotyping. In this study, we assess the applicability of very high spatial resolution (1 cm) UAV-based imagery taken with commercial off the shelf (COTS) digital cameras for both deriving calibrated reflectance imagery, and isolating vegetation canopy reflectance from that of the underlying soil. We present new methods for successfully normalising COTS camera imagery for exposure and solar irradiance effects, generating multispectral (RGB-NIR) orthomosaics of our target field-based wheat crop trial. Validation against measurements from a ground spectrometer showed good results for reflectance (R2 ≥ 0.6) and NDVI (R2 ≥ 0.88). Application of imagery collected through the growing season and masked using the Excess Green Red index was used to assess the impact of canopy cover on NDVI measurements. Results showed the impact of canopy cover artificially reducing plot NDVI values in the early season, where canopy development is low.

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