AOP covers ground with 166 flight hours in 2015

October 13, 2015

The NEON Airborne Observation Platform (AOP) team recently wrapped up their fourth flight season. The AOP collects remote sensing data over NEON field sites annually using sensors mounted on a Twin Otter aircraft: sensors consist of a hyperspectral imaging spectrometer, a full waveform and discrete return LiDAR, and a high-resolution Red, Blue Green (RGB) camera. Learn more about NEON airborne remote sensing collection methods and instruments here.

How much ground did the NEON AOP cover this summer?

Over four months this summer, while targeting peak greenness, the AOP team:

  • Conducted five flight campaigns
  • Collected AOP data for two domains (D07, D08), totalling 6 NEON field sites
  • Conducted calibration and test flights in D10 to evaluate the performance existing sensors and three new sensors: Riegl LiDAR, Riegl camera and Solar Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SSIM)
  • Conducted 76 flights totaling 166 hours

2015 airborne data are available now

Data from the AOP build a robust time series of landscape-scale changes in numerous physical, biological and biochemical metrics, such as vegetation cover and density, canopy chemistry, and topography, including elevation, slope and aspect. Explore and request airborne data.

A team effort in the air and on the ground

For the flight team members, flight days may last up to 12 hours. Each flight is carefully orchestrated and requires two pilots, two airborne sensor operators and one ground crew coordinator. Staff Scientist John Musinsky works closely with the AOP team to design flight plans to ensure the payloads collect remote sensing data over specific areas in order to provide ecologically relevant data that enable scaling of in situ observations to regional and continental-scale models.

Where possible, a NEON AOP field team also collects ground data to facilitate validation and calibration of the airborne instrumentation. Air and ground crews must form a cohesive team and be in constant contact to ensure that the timing and location of field samples are insync with overflights. Data collected from the field are also made available for download when requesting airborne data.

What’s up in the air (literally) for AOP in 2016?

In 2016, the AOP is scheduled to collect airborne remote sensing data over a five-month period. Eventually, the AOP will consist of two payloads divided between the eastern and western United States and a third payload to facilitate Principal Investigator research.

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