Airborne Data

The 2018 Airborne Remote Sensing Campaign is currently underway from now through October 2018.

Types of Airborne Remote Sensing Data

Airborne remote sensing flight surveys are conducted over NEON field sites during peak greenness to collect quantitative information on land cover and changes to ecological structure and chemistry, including the presence and effects of invasive species across landscapes.

The flight box for each field site ranges from 100-300km2. Collection of AOP data is also synchronized with data collected on the ground at each site. This allows scientists to develop a more comprehensive picture of how different observations scale and how measurements taken from airborne remote sensing instruments correlate with observations made on the ground.

Data are accessible through a variety of methods:

Scroll down to learn more about how to access NEON's airborne data.

NEON provides the following data products:

Lidar Data

NEON operates two Optech ALTM Gemini systems and a Riegl LMS-Q780 to collect both discrete and waveform LiDAR data.

Resolution: Discrete point cloud data and waveform data: approximately 1-4 points/waveforms per square meter. Discrete-derived surface topography products: Approximately one meter at 1000 meters above ground level (AGL) .

Data products include:

  • Discrete return Lidar point cloud
  • Lidar slant range waveform
  • Slope and Aspect - Lidar
  • Elevation - Lidar
  • Ecosystem structure

NEON Imaging Spectrometer (NIS) data displayed in a traditional RGB composite shows how Ordway Swisher Biological Station would look if you rode along in the Twin Otter for a data acquisition flight. The NIS covers a much larger range of wavelengths than the human eye, however, and divides the spectrum in to 428 narrow (5 nm) spectral bands. NEON uses key bands from the instrument to create a full suite of spectral indices for vegetation and water. One of the most popular is NDVI, which ranges from –1 (not vegetation) to 1 (lush, green vegetation) and is displayed here using a Color Brewer BlueGreen color table.

Hyperspectral Data

NEON’s imaging spectrometer is a pushbroom collection style instrument (AVIRIS next-gen) that was designed and built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It measures reflected light energy in greater than 420 narrow spectral bands extending from 380 to 2500 nm with a spectral sampling of five nm.

Resolution: Approximately one meter, at 1000 meters above ground level (AGL)

Data products include:

  • Hyperspectral Flightlines and Mosaics
    • Spectrometer orthorectified surface directional reflectance
    • Spectrometer orthorectified at-sensor radiance (flightline only)
    • fPAR
    • LAI
    • Total biomass map
    • Vegetation indices
    • Albedo
    • Canopy water content, lignin, nitrogen and xanthophyll cycle

Camera Data:

NEON operates two Phase One iXU-RS1000 (100 MP) digital aerial cameras, and one Phase One iXA (80 MP) camera.

Resolution: 6.6 - 10.0 cm @ 1000m AGL

Data products include:

  • High-resolution orthorectified RGB camera imagery and mosaics

Field data

  • ASD Spectral Data

Learn more about how we collect airborne remote sensing data

Understanding What Airborne Data are Available

The AOP began collecting preliminary data by surveying five field sites in 2013. Each subsequent year, surveys of additional sites have been completed. Beginning in 2018, NEON surveyed 75% of all NEON field sites. This will continue each year on a rotating basis. Flight plans are typically published to this website in the spring of each year. To understand which field sites have been flown each year since 2013, download the flight schedules workbook below.

Annual AOP flight schedules from 2013-2018

Last updated on March 9, 2018.

This downloadable workbook includes the NEON project's annual planned flight schedules for the Airborne Observation Platform (AOP) from 2013-2018. This information is intended to provide researchers an understanding of when we intend to collect airborne data as well as an idea of what data are already available for download. Please note that actual date ranges for data collection may vary from the information in this document due to weather conditions, technical issues, instrument availability and budget. Data become available on the data portal as they are processed.


Tips for Getting Airborne Data

There are several ways, users can access airborne data:

Which method you choose will depend on how fast your internet access is and how much data your machine can handle. AOP data are very large. If the data are over 1 GB, it is recommended that you access the data programatically using the NEON Data API.

Here is a list of median data sizes per product per site for reference:

Level 1 Data Level 2 Data Level 3 Data
L1 Discrete Lidar: 5 GB L2 Albedo: 2 GB L3 Albedo: 1 GB
L1 Camera: 100 GB L2 fPAR: 2GB L3 fPAR: 1 GB
L1 Reflectance: 150 GB L2 Biomass: 2 GB L3 Biomass: 1 GB
L1 Radiance: 500 GB L2 LAI: 2 GB L3 LAI:  1 GB
L1 Waveform Lidar: 150 GB L2 Vegindices: 12 GB L3 Veg Indices: 5 GB
  L2 Water indices: 10 GB L3 Water Indices: 5 GB
    L3 Aspect: 1 GB
    L3 Slope: 1GB
    L3 DTM: 1 GB
    L3 DSM: 1 GB
    L3 CHM: 1 GB
    L3 Camera: 10 GB
    L3 Reflectance: 80 G

Tips for Downloading the Data

  1. On the Browse Data page, select "Airborne Observation Platform (AOP)" under the Data Team filter which is located towards the bottom of the page in the left-hand column.
  2. Once you have selected a product, you can click on "Sites" to see all sites with available data.
  3. Once you select your site(s) and click "Download Data" you will be directed to a page to configure your data download.
  4. First click the "Configure Dataset" button. Then scroll down the page to select what files you want to download. Finallly, then click the "Download Dataset" button. The data will be compressed into a zip folder and downloaded to your computer.

If you notice that the data you want to download are over 1 GB, it is recommended that you use the NEON Data API or NEON Utilities GitHub repo to programmatically download the data. If you are having problems getting the data to download, please contact us for help.

Request a Hard Drive Data Delivery

If you would prefer to receive data via hard drive, we are able to load the data on to a hard drive you mail to us. Requesters must mail us an empt SATA drive at least the size of the data they are requesting.

Learn more

Request an Airborne Remote Sensing Survey

To enable researchers to obtain their own remote sensing data, NEON can conduct airborne remote sensing flight surveys using the NEON Airborne Observation Platform (AOP). NEON’s ability to provide researchers with access to an AOP depends on whether any unit is available for use at a given time. As with NEON’s other Assignable Assets, the requesting research team is responsible for covering NEON’s costs associated with deploying an AOP.

Learn more

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