A characterization software suite was developed to facilitate NASA’s in-flight characterization of commercial remote sensing systems. Characterization of aerial and satellite systems requires knowledge of ground characteristics, or ground truth. This information is typically obtained with instruments taking measurements prior to or during a remote sensing system overpass. Acquired ground-truth data, which can consist of hundreds of measurements with different data formats, must be processed before it can be used in the characterization. Accurate in-flight characterization of remote sensing systems relies on multiple field data acquisitions that are efficiently processed, with minimal error.

To address the need for timely, reproducible ground-truth data, a characterization software suite was developed to automate the data processing methods. The characterization software suite is engineering code, requiring some prior knowledge and expertise to run. The suite consists of component scripts for each of the three main in-flight characterization types: radiometric, geometric, and spatial. The component scripts for the radiometric characterization operate primarily by reading the raw data acquired by the field instruments, combining it with other applicable information, and then reducing it to a format that is appropriate for input into MODTRAN (MODerate resolution atmospheric TRANsmission), an Air Force Research Laboratory-developed radiative transport code used to predict at-sensor measurements. The geometric scripts operate by comparing identified target locations from the remote sensing image to known target locations, producing circular error statistics defined by the Federal Geographic Data Committee Standards. The spatial scripts analyze a target edge within the image, and produce estimates of Relative Edge Response and the value of the Modulation Transfer Function at the Nyquist frequency.

The software suite enables rapid, efficient, automated processing of ground-truth data, which has been used to provide reproducible characterizations on a number of commercial remote sensing systems. Overall, this characterization software suite improves the reliability of ground-truth data processing techniques that are required for remote sensing system in-flight characterizations.

This work was done by Thomas Stanley of Stennis Space Center; Robert Ryan, Mary Pagnutti, Slawomir Blonski, Kenton Ross, Kara Holekamp, Gerald Gasser, and Wes Tabor of Lockheed Martin; and Ronald Vaughan of CSC.

For more information, contact the SSC Office of Center Chief Technologist at 228-688-1929 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. SSC-00393

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the January, 2014 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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