Development of a Multispectral Albedometer and Deployment on an Unmanned Aircraft for Evaluating Satellite Retrieved Surface Reflectance over Nevada's Black Rock Desert

Sensors (Basel). 2018 Oct 17;18(10):3504. doi: 10.3390/s18103504.


Bright surfaces across the western U.S. lead to uncertainties in satellite derived aerosol optical depth (AOD) where AOD is typically overestimated. With this in mind, a compact and portable instrument was developed to measure surface albedo on an unmanned aircraft system (UAS). This spectral albedometer uses two Hamamatsu micro-spectrometers (range: 340⁻780 nm) for measuring incident and reflected solar radiation at the surface. The instrument was deployed on 5 October 2017 in Nevada's Black Rock Desert (BRD) to investigate a region of known high surface reflectance for comparison with albedo products from satellites. It was found that satellite retrievals underestimate surface reflectance compared to the UAS mounted albedometer. To highlight the importance of surface reflectance on the AOD from satellite retrieval algorithms, a 1-D radiative transfer model was used. The simple model was used to determine the sensitivity of AOD with respect to the change in albedo and indicates a large sensitivity of AOD retrievals to surface reflectance for certain combinations of surface albedo and aerosol optical properties. This demonstrates the need to increase the number of surface albedo measurements and an intensive evaluation of albedo satellite retrievals to improve satellite-derived AOD. The portable instrument is suitable for other applications as well.

Keywords: AOD; LANDSAT; MODIS; UAS; UAV; albedo; drone; satellite remote sensing; unmanned aircraft system.