Piccolo3 spectral systems
An introduction to Piccolo3 modular non-imaging dual-field-of-view spectrometer systems for fixed-point logging, rotary-wing UAV, and field spectroscopy applications. These systems have been developed by Team Piccolo at the University of Edinburgh in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Valencia.
Summary – the need for Piccolo3 spectral systems
Optical imaging of the Earth’s surface from satellites is now routine. A great number of providers supply images, with pixel sizes of a few metres, that are processed to red, green and blue (RGB) bands to simulate our (human) vision, Google Earth being a prime example. Our cognitive process and experiential learning can then be used to understand the image pixel content (perceived as colour) and relationships between pixels (perceived as recognisable objects). However, optical imaging (given an appropriate sensor system) can sense more spectral detail and/or span a far great wavelength range than we can. Specific absorption or reflectance features can be detected at wavelengths within and beyond the range of human vision. As we have a reasonable understanding of the physics of the interaction of light with Earth surfaces mathematical or computer models can be used to infer physical and chemical properties from measurements of reflected light. Then from model data surface composition can be inferred and the health and vigour of vegetation and other photosynthetic organisms deducted. This information can then be used to quantify surfaces, direct management or assess change over time. However, when the optical (spectral) detail or wavelength range is greater than we can naturally perceive, or chemical or physical composition need to be measured and quantified, alternative approaches to human vision are needed. As satellite sensors record light ‘at sensor’ an account of the change in light as it passes from the Earth surface to the sensor is also needed. Optical sensors used near to the ground can be used to address these two issues (limits of human perception and effect of atmosphere on recorded data). However, the reflected light is also dependent on skylight illumination the surface at time of measurement.
As the size of these near-ground optically sampled areas are far smaller (than satellite image pixels) they can be manually or physically sampled or destructively tested to quantify physical or chemical composition. Then relationships between these attributes and the optical data established or model outputs verified. In addition, instrument used to optically sample near to the ground can be moved both across Earth surfaces and vertically above them to sample different or larger areas. Therefore, Earth surface spatial variability can be sampled and as height above surface can be increased the effects of the atmosphere on reflected light can be better understood. In addition, as near ground instrument can also be held in place for extended periods, measurements of Earth surface change over time can be made. However, these instruments also need to record the skylight incident on the surface.
Piccolo spectral systems: by being modular, can be selected to match the spectral detail and range of interest; by being lightweight and portable, can manually or with suitable platforms (i.e. rotary-wing drones) be moved across the Earth surfaces and at increasing heights above them; by being weatherproof and able to record and store measurements, can measure Earth surface change over time; and by being dual-field-of-view, can measure surface reflectance and skylight near simultaneously. Piccolo spectral systems can be used for: fixed-location long term logging, rotary-wing UAV spatial sampling, or as field spectrometers to advance Earth observation science and further understanding of Earth processes for the benefit of all.