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Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (AAVs) as a Tool for Improving the Spatial...

Sproles, E. A., A. Mullen, J. Hendrikx, C. Gatebe, and S. Taylor (2020), Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (AAVs) as a Tool for Improving the Spatial Resolution of Snow Albedo Measurements in Mountainous Regions, doi:10.3390/hydrology7030041.

We present technical advances and methods to measure effective broadband physical albedo in snowy mountain headwaters using a prototype dual-sensor pyranometer mounted on an Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (an AAV). Our test flights over snowy meadows and forested areas performed well during both clear sky and snowy/windy conditions at an elevation of ~2650 m above mean sea level (MSL). Our AAV-pyranometer platform provided high spatial (m) and temporal resolution (sec) measurements of effective broadband (310–2700 nm) surface albedo. The AAV-based measurements reveal spatially explicit changes in landscape albedo that are not present in concurrent satellite measurements from Landsat and MODIS due to a higher spatial resolution. This AAV capability is needed for validation of satellite snow albedo products, especially over variable montane landscapes at spatial scales of critical importance to hydrological applications. Effectively measuring albedo is important, as annually the seasonal accumulation and melt of mountain snowpack represent a dramatic transformation of Earth’s albedo, which directly affects headwaters’ water and energy cycles.

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Research Program: 
Terrestrial Hydrology Program (THP)
Radiation Science Program (RSP)