Tips for Getting Airborne Data

Use this page to learn more about data availability for NEON's airborne remote sensing data, as well as tips for accessing the data and working with the data. It is important to note that many of our remote sensing products are very large.

Data Availability

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.


Explore Data Availability

You can also explore data product availability by field site through the Explore Data page on the NEON data portal.

Explore now

Collection Frequency and Data Latency

The AOP collects airborne remote sensing data at a subset of the NEON sites annually. The schedule for each flight season is published on the NEON website several months prior to commencement of collections, and provides the time period that the AOP will be at each domain. Precise collection times for a site within the domain’s scheduled time period is not predetermined, as it is primarily driven by weather conditions encountered upon arrival. The total collection time required for each site will vary based on the size of the area covered as well as weather conditions. Under good weather conditions, the smallest NEON sites can be collected in a single day, while the largest could take up to a week. If weather conditions prove unsuitable for collections during the entire scheduled time at a domain, portions of sites or entire sites may not be collected. The AOP data will typically be published on the NEON data portal in less than 60 days after the final collection day at a site. All non-legacy data collected to date are currently available.

Legacy Data Latency

The NEON AOP conducted collections of several sites prior to NEON reaching its operational phase. Collections conducted between 2013 and 2016 were processed with algorithms that had not yet reached their current level of maturity. These ‘legacy’ products are currently provided through the NEON data portal and are concurrently undergoing a re-processing so that they conform in structure and quality with current products. It is expected that the reprocessing of these data products will be complete in early 2019 and the legacy products on the data portal will be replaced.

Options 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. Finally, 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 empty 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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