CAREER: An Integrated Research/Educational Plan to Develop and Deploy a Pointable, Hyperspectral Remote Sensing Instrument on a Tethered Balloon
CAREER: An Integrated Research and Education Plan to Develop and Deploy a Pointable, Hyperspectral Remote Sensing Instrument on a Tethered Balloon
Images of the earth taken by satellite and aircraft-based remote sensing instruments offer an immensely valuable, yet limited perspective. While remote sensing technologies have revolutionized the study of the earth system by enabling large surface areas to be imaged quickly and frequently, various limitations can restrict the spatial resolution (i.e. pixel size) of remote sensing data to the point where observable surface detail is insufficient to study critical environmental processes. As a result, complex mathematical procedures are often necessary to derive "sub-pixel" fractions of various ground cover types such as trees, grasses, bare soil, and water. To complement and validate these mathematical procedures, novel remote sensing techniques are needed to bridge the gap between small-scale, ground-based observations and larger scale aircraft- and satellite-based measurements. A instrument will be developed that can be attached to the tether line of a large, unmanned blimp and raised and lowered to view the earth across a range of intermediate perspectives. An integrated research/education program at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSM&T) will develop and deploy a lightweight, state-of-the-art remote sensing instrument package for use on such a tethered balloon platform. Graduate students and faculty in the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences will team with undergraduate engineering students participating in the SDSM&T Center of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing and Production (CAMP) and Senior Design Courses to design, construct, and test the instrument. In addition, the instrument will be used to develop a remote sensing educational module for integration into the SDSM&T Scientific Knowledge for Indian Learning and Leadership (SKILL) summer program for pre-college Native American students. Instrument development will occur incrementally during each academic year of the five-year development period. Upon the completion of each stage of instrument development, graduate students and the Principal Investigator will use the instrument to conduct several remote sensing experiments made possible by the balloon platform. For example, the balloon platform will be used to investigate how cover estimates of sub-pixel landscape components using various mathematical "spectral mixture analysis" techniques can be validated and improved. By the end of the project, the hyperspectral instrument platform will be capable of stable flight, real-time instrument-to-ground data transmission, and will be remotely pointable from the ground. The overarching goals of this work are 1) to foster collaboration between student scientists and engineers, 2) to utilize the results of this collaboration in order to conduct novel research and make advances in terrestrial remote sensing, and 3) to make this technology and research familiar to minority students and encourage them to pursue careers in science and technology.