The combination of LiDAR and optical remotely sensed data provides unique information about ecosystem structure and function. Here, we describe the development, validation and application of a new airborne system that integrates commercial off the shelf LiDAR hyperspectral and thermal components in a compact, lightweight and portable system. Goddard’s LiDAR, Hyperspectral and Thermal (G-LiHT) airborne imager is a unique system that permits simultaneous measurements of vegetation structure, foliar spectra and surface temperatures at very high spatial resolution (∼1 m) on a wide range of airborne platforms.
The complementary nature of LiDAR, optical and thermal data provide an analytical framework for the development of new algorithms to map plant species composition, plant functional types, biodiversity, biomass and carbon stocks, and plant growth. In addition, G-LiHT data enhance our ability to validate data from existing satellite missions and support NASA Earth Science research. G-LiHT’s data processing and distribution system is designed to give scientists open access to both low- and high-level data products ( http://gliht.gsfc.nasa.gov), which will stimulate the community development of synergistic data fusion algorithms.
G-LiHT has been used to collect more than 6,500 km2 of data for NASA-sponsored studies across a broad range of ecoregions in the USA and Mexico. In this paper, we document G-LiHT design considerations, physical specifications, instrument performance and calibration and acquisition parameters. In addition, we describe the data processing system and higher-level data products that are freely distributed under NASA’s Data and Information policy.