Airborne Remote Sensing Platform

The SMCRI has acquired a single engine, high wing light aircraft equipped with complex and integrated sensory equipment for the purposes of conducting aerial surveys where accurate, georeferenced high definition (HD) imagery are required for scientific purposes. The aircraft is a Glasair Sportsman, a modern design from the USA that offers exceptional performance capabilities for its class and is affordable to operate as it runs on automotive fuel (mogas) as opposed to aviation fuel (avgas). With 6 hours endurance and a cruise speed of 135 knots it allows for vast distances to be covered without refuelling.

The sensory pack is setup over open viewports in the fuselage floor which allows for the continuous capture of high quality overlapped, horizontal images. High definition, geo-referenced orthomosaics can be generated from these images using state Airborne Remote Sensing Platform of the art post-processing software which corrects for angle distortions and drift by using information generated by the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) at the time of each image’s capture. These surveys will be used mainly to document and monitor changes in vegetation, dune and shoreline migration, estuary mouth states and episodic events (e.g. Harmful Algal Blooms, oil spills, etc) along the entire coastline of South Africa. The initial sensor installation also allows for the capture of thermal Infra-Red (IR) images that are useful for mapping surface spatial temperature patterns. The intention is for both a hyperspectral sensor and LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to be installed at a later stage to enable the platform to accurately measure the reflectance of the landscape/ocean as well as generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics down to a depth of 30 m.