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Thermal sensor calibration for unmanned aerial systems using an external heated shutter


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Virtue, J, Turner, D ORCID: 0000-0002-3029-6717, Williams, G, Zeliadt, S, McCabe, M and Lucieer, A ORCID: 0000-0002-9468-4516 2021 , 'Thermal sensor calibration for unmanned aerial systems using an external heated shutter' , Drones, vol. 5, no. 4 , pp. 1-15 , doi: 10.3390/drones5040119.

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Uncooled thermal infrared sensors are increasingly being deployed on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for agriculture, forestry, wildlife surveys, and surveillance. The acquisition of thermal data requires accurate and uniform testing of equipment to ensure precise temperature measurements. We modified an uncooled thermal infrared sensor, specifically designed for UAS remote sensing, with a proprietary external heated shutter as a calibration source. The performance of the modified thermal sensor and a standard thermal sensor (i.e., without a heated shutter) was compared under both field and temperature modulated laboratory conditions. During laboratory trials with a blackbody source at 35 °C over a 150 min testing period, the modified and unmodified thermal sensor produced temperature ranges of 34.3–35.6 °C and 33.5–36.4 °C, respectively. A laboratory experiment also included the simulation of flight conditions by introducing airflow over the thermal sensor at a rate of 4 m/s. With the blackbody source held at a constant temperature of 25 °C, the introduction of 2 min air flow resulted in a ’shock cooling’ event in both the modified and unmodified sensors, oscillating between 19–30 °C and -15–65 °C, respectively. Following the initial ‘shock cooling’ event, the modified and unmodified thermal sensor oscillated between 22–27 °C and 5–45 °C, respectively. During field trials conducted over a pine plantation, the modified thermal sensor also outperformed the unmodified sensor in a side-by-side comparison. We found that the use of a mounted heated shutter improved thermal measurements, producing more consistent accurate temperature data for thermal mapping projects.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Virtue, J and Turner, D and Williams, G and Zeliadt, S and McCabe, M and Lucieer, A
Keywords: thermal mapping, infrared, temperature measurements, FLIR Vue Pro R, thermal capture calibrator, UAV, UAS, drone, RPAS
Journal or Publication Title: Drones
Publisher: MDPI AG
ISSN: 2504-446X
DOI / ID Number: 10.3390/drones5040119
Copyright Information:

Copyright: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license (

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