Infrared Thermal Mapping

Cornerstone Mapping operates a digital thermal camera that is designed for mapping applications.  The thermal camera can also be co-mounted with the Microsoft Ultracam Lp digital camera system to acquire 4-band RGBN imagery at the same time.  This arrangement reduces data collection costs because only one flight is required for two data sets.

The thermal imaging camera is manufactured by Jenoptik, a cutting-edge electronics company for ground, airborne, and space borne platforms.  The thermal camera is designed to meet the demanding requirements of airborne applications.  A radiometric calibration process is utilized to enhance the absolute accuracy of the thermal reading sensed by the camera.  As a result of calibrating and adjusting the thermal sensor an accuracy of ±0.1°C is achieved.

The co-mounted multispectral and thermal imagery are tightly co-registered.  Since both image layers are georeferenced, the data layers can be turned on & off, within a GIS, to compare the two data layers.  The high resolution of the multispectral imagery greatly enhances the quality of thermal data interpretation.

Thermal Imaging Applications

Precision Agriculture
Beyond seed selection, soil fertility and water are the most important factors for managing crops. Non-uniform irrigation causes water stress and factors affecting evapotranspiration start to increase plant temperature. Thermal imaging detects heat stress in crops long before the patterns can be detected using traditional aerial photography. Early detection of irrigation issues provides a grower with an opportunity to reduce yield loss by fixing the non-uniform irrigation early.

Sub-Surface Steam Lines
Underground steam lines radiate heat and can be mapped for asset management. Steam lines that are under insulated or may have a leak radiate more energy and can be detected by thermal imaging.

Water Quality
Water quality is important for ecology, recreation, and consumption. Surface water temperature can be monitored to detect point source locations for warmer and cooler water. Warm water may come from industry and cool water can be detected from natural springs.

City-Wide Energy Audits
Nighttime thermal energy can be used as a tool to identify commercial buildings and residential homes that are losing energy. Targeting buildings that are losing heat can lead to improved utility consumption and help reduce energy poverty. Energy poverty is where the homes losing the most heat are often the home owners that cannot afford to improve their home, but end up paying higher utility bills. Higher utility bills for lower income homes can represent a large portion of a family budget.

Wildlife Mapping
Thermal imaging can be used to conduct wildlife distribution and population assessments. Understanding wildlife density can help us better understand habitat utilization and interaction with urban-rural populations.