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Hyperspectral Imaging and the Latest Sensors for UAV Applications


      Conventional techniques based around the trichromatic representation of images (colours visible with a naked eye – red, green and blue) usually lose a huge degree of information before the final processed image is shown. However, much more informations can be gain from the extended colour spectrum. And that is exactly why is hyperspectral imaging so useful – each pixel in an received image can effectively equate to an independent spectral output – containing typically between ten to several hundred spectral components within the bandwidth limits of the imaging system. In todays post we would like to present you a short overview about some promising companies focused on hyperspectral sensors for UAV and their latest products. One of the newest players on this field is a German company Cubert GmbH, a high-tech start up from the university of Ulm, founded 2011. In May 2013 they evaluated the first UAV based hyperspecral imager in collaboration with a research team from the University of Cologne. The hyperspectral sensor called Cubert UHD 185 was mounted under an octocopter. It is the lightest hyperspectral camera made by Cubert GmbH which combines the precision of hyperspectral sensors with the ease of use of a snapshot camera. With this smart device a user will get full hyperspectral cubes in 1/1000 of a second, so it is pretty apparently an ideal choice for e.g. UAV precision agriculture. Their second sensor model, the UHD 285, is more robust and presents the first of its kind full frame non-scanning, imaging spectrometer. We should also mention that this excellent device for hyperspecral imaging is awarded inVision “Top Innovation” 2015.

   Last year, the American company Headwall Photonics Inc. introduced the Nano-Hyperspectral sensor designed to provide hand-launched UAV with hyperspectral imaging capability. This lightweight and low-cost electro-optical sensor is able to operate in the visible and near-infrared segment of the electromagnetic spectrum and includes onboard data processing and storage. Thanks to size and weight reduction it presents an ideal option even for small UAVs. The VNIR sensor for hyperspecral imaging can operate together with GPS data and inertial measurement unit (IMU) navigation technologies. Regarding some technical specifications, the Nano-Hyperspec features 640 spatial bands and 270 spectral bands with a resolution of 2 to 3 nanometers, data storage capacity 480 GB and frame rate faster than 300 frames per second. Another state-of-the-art hyperspectral imaging camera presented last year nanoelectronics research center imec and XIMEA. They integrated their Hyperspectral Imaging sensors together with XIMEA´s xiQ USB 3.0. camera products in order to utilize advantages of both technologies. According to the representatives from both companies, this promising partnership will open new possibilities in multi-spectral and hyperspecral imaging mainly thanks to low-weight and highly compact sensor solutions. Imec´s technology provides hyperspectral image sensor with the top compactness by applying narrow-band spectral filters at pixel-level using semiconductor thin-film processing. XIMEA coupled ximec´s hyperspectral sensor into its xiQ cameras, so it can very probably claim the title of world´s smallest industrial USB3 Vision and hyperspectral imaging camera. Anyway, xiQ camera measures only 6.4 x 26.4 x 21.6 mm and weights of mere 27 grams, so it is definitely an excelent device for UAV applications such as precision agriculture.

Imaging spectroscopy, or hyperspectral imaging, is very likely one of the most beneficial and absorbing method among all the spectral imaging technologies. That is why we surely offer you some of these great sensors for your UAV applications. Hyperspectral Camera Rikola has been developed by the Finnish company Rikola Ltd. in cooperation with VTT and it presents the smallest and most lightweight hyperspectral camera worldwide. Rikola Ltd. is a groundbreaking expert on a field of miniature spectral measurement tools and it was founded in 1993 as a spin-off from VTT technical research center. The frame based solution provides full 2D images at every exposure enabling hyperspectral stereophotogrammetry in UAVs for the most demanding UAV applications. The hyperspectral camera Rikola is a brilliant solution especially for precision agriculture and natural environment monitoring, because is set to the the range of 500-900nm where leaf chlorophyll content is the primary factor that affects reflectance. Such wavelength range is exceptionally advantageous for crop indices like yield estimates, detection of crop diseases or flux indices.

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