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Headwall is known as the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of high performance hyperspectral imaging sensors for harsh environments. As a pioneer for remote sensing applications, Headwall is the first mover to put to the market a fully integrated remote sensing solution, combining hyperspectral and LiDAR sensors on a small Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV). This ‘total solution’ approach is embraced by the remote-sensing market because it quickens time-to-deployment, decreases implementation costs, and enables operations in harsh environments.
A UNIQUE UAV-BASED REMOTE SENSING SOLUTION
The UAV is a multi-rotor UAV (four wings with two props per wing). It carries Headwall’s lightweight Micro-Hyperspec VNIR hyperspectral sensor and a Velodyne LiDAR unit. The LiDAR provides a point cloud that reflects the field’s topographic relief, and the hyperspectral sensor delivers a picture showing spectral signatures of every object within the field of view. These spectral signatures, like ‘fingerprints’, enable material identification. For example, a spectral signature for hydro-carbons helps mineralogists discover and find new oil fields. Assembled together, hyperspectral and LiDAR data form a digital elevation model unique to the industry.
EKINOX-N, LIGHT-WEIGHT & HIGH PERFORMANCE INS/GPS
An inertial navigation system with GPS is needed to provide positioning and orientation data. When it came to selecting the best sensor, the Headwall team studied high end inertial navigation systems. “We chose the Ekinox-N as it offered the best combination of performance and features for the price,” explains Sam Hill, Optical/Software Engineer at Headwall. The weight was a key factor. The Ekinox-N weighs only 500 grams, though it integrates a Survey-grade L1/L2 GNSS sensor to provide accurate positioning and precision roll, pitch, and heading data. “It is lighter than other high-end units in this class, and we are able to offer customers the ability to collect higher-resolution digital elevation models that airborne environmental-monitoring projects like these demand” adds Mr. Christopher Van Veen in charge of Marketing at Headwall.
ACCURATE DIGITAL ELEVATION MODELS
Mounted on the UAV, the Ekinox-N provides LiDAR and the hyperspectral camera’s orientation and position during the whole flight. Data is recorded in real-time at 200 Hz within the onboard computer that records the other sensors’ data as well. On the ground, the Headwall post-pro- cessing Hyperspec software fuses all sensor information. “Customers also wish to do orthorectification of their image data during post-processing; this is made possible thanks to the outstanding Ekinox-N accuracy.” points out Mr. Van Veen. Indeed, Ekinox-N data makes every scanned point and every pixel georeferenced and tilt compensated within a centimeter level accuracy.
Now thoroughly field-tested, Headwall has shipped the integrated UAV sensor solution which will be used by a major United States-based educational institution for environmental and geological research studies (specifically rock-cliffs and vegetation analysis) and new customer orders are being built. “This represents a ‘new frontier’ for the remote-sensing community because Headwall’s total solution includes the most desired technical instruments on a mission-specific UAV: hyperspectral, LiDAR, GPS/IMU, and the software and data-management/storage infrastructure.“ concludes Mr. Van Veen.