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Evaluation of a UAV-mounted consumer grade camera with different spectral modifications and two handheld spectral sensors for rapeseed growth monitoring: performance and influencing factors

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The objective of this study was to evaluate the crop monitoring performance of a consumer-grade camera with non-modified and modified spectral ranges which are commonly used in low-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms. The camera was fixed sequentially with seven types of filters for collecting visible images and near-infrared (NIR) images with different center band locations and bandwidths. Meanwhile, field-based hyperspectral data and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) measured by a GreenSeeker handheld crop sensor (GS-NDVI) were collected to examine the accuracy of rapeseed growth monitoring in terms of vegetation indices (VIs) derived from UAV images. Results showed that the UAV-based RGB-VIs and optimal NIR-VIs had similar accuracy for predicting GS-NDVI. Moreover, similar results were achieved based on the hyperspectral data, indicating the importance of spectral characteristics for GS-NDVI estimation. However, the UAV-based results also indicated that the performance of VIs derived from the band combinations containing longer NIR center wavelengths and narrower bandwidths was obviously poorer than that of the RGB-VIs. The image quality of the NIR band was also found to be inferior to the visible band based on quantitative analysis, which also revealed that image quality had great impact on UAV-based results. Image quality was then related to the effects of camera exposure, spectral sensitivity, soil background and dark areas. The results from this study provide useful information for camera modifications by selecting appropriate filters that not only are sensitive to crop growth, but also ensure image quality.

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This work was financially supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2018YFD1000901) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Grant Nos. 2662018PY101 and 2662018JC012). Special thanks go to the field staff of Huazhong Agricultural University for their daily management of the field experiments. We are grateful to the reviewers for their valuable comments and recommendations.

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Correspondence to Liangzhi You or Jing Xie.

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Zhang, J., Wang, C., Yang, C. et al. Evaluation of a UAV-mounted consumer grade camera with different spectral modifications and two handheld spectral sensors for rapeseed growth monitoring: performance and influencing factors. Precision Agric (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11119-020-09710-w

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  • Modified consumer grade camera
  • Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)
  • Field-based hyperspectral data
  • GreenSeeker crop sensor
  • Image quality
  • Band combination