New Method Transforms Digital Cameras for Aerial Photography

Cindy ZimmermanAerial Imagery, USDA

Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have patented a way to transform commercial digital cameras to produce color infrared aerial photos that can measure the extent of vegetative cover.

USDA has jointly patented the technology that can take an ordinary 12-megapixel camera sold without an internal filter that blocks near-infrared (NIR) light and then add a custom-made lens filter to block red light and transmit NIR.

The patented method allows photographing with light in the NIR, green and blue bands, which are used to measure the “greenness” of vegetation and extent of crop canopy cover. There is no need for further processing, so the images are available immediately upon landing. The cameras are also lighter and more compact than the traditional larger format cameras used for aerial infrared photography.

Read more from USDA-ARS.