Multi-sensor and multi-platform consistency and interoperability between UAV, Planet CubeSat, Sentinel-2, and Landsat reflectance data

Jiale Jiang, Kasper Johansen, Yu-Hsuan Tu, Matthew McCabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and satellite data have considerable complementarity for platform inter-operability, data fusion studies, calibration and validation efforts, and various multiscale analyses. To optimize cross-platform synergies between field-deployable UAV and space-based satellite systems, an understanding of spectral characteristics and compatibility is required. Here, we present the assessment of spectral consistency, undertaking a pixel-to-pixel similarity assessment of co-registered reflectance maps using corresponding spectral bands from UAV and satellite multispectral imagery. A high-resolution centimeter-scale UAV-mounted MicaSense RedEdge-MX sensor is intercompared against variable-resolution multi-spectral sensors on-board PlanetScope, Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8 platforms. Sampling from within an urban environment that covers a range of both natural and man-made surfaces, we employ ground-based spectroradiometer data to evaluate pixel-level responses, using regression analysis and measurements of relative root mean square error (rRMSE) to assess for factors such as spatial and spectral misalignment. Using two radiometric correction approaches for the UAV data, we found that a vicarious radiometric correction was more accurate than a linear empirical line method, with the former improving rRMSE by between 1.6% and 20.11% when assessed against spectroradiometer measurements. Spectral band misalignment between the UAV and satellite sensors affected their spectral consistency, causing different reflectance values for the same object in the corresponding UAV and satellite bands, with the issue amplified over specific land-cover classes (e.g. grass in the red edge part of the spectrum). Using the standard deviation of a UAV-derived normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) as a metric of spatial heterogeneity, larger differences between the UAV and satellite-based NDVI were observed for different ground features in response to both land-cover boundary and shadow effects. Interestingly, higher spatial heterogeneity did not necessarily lead to higher spectral inconsistencies. It was also determined that as spatial scale differences between the UAV and satellite platforms increased, the lower was the impact of geometric misregistration on their consistency. Indeed, the rRMSE between the reflectance values of the UAV-based spectral bands and the corresponding satellite imagery was smaller at lower resolution (e.g. Landsat 8) than higher resolution (e.g. PlanetScope). Overall, the study provides insight into the collective effect of spectral and spatial misalignments on the degree of spectral consistency that can be expected between UAV and satellite data, guiding robust radiometric intercalibration efforts and the potential for improved synergy and interoperability between UAV and satellite data.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)936-958
Number of pages23
JournalGIScience & Remote Sensing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 6 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-06-08
Acknowledgements: Research reported in this publication was supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). We would like to thank Dr Bruno Aragon and Samir Almashharawi for assistance acquiring the UAV data and Dr Yoseline Angel for GPS and spectrometer data collection.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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