Advancements in system design for thermal instruments require assessment of potential environmental applications and appropriate data processing techniques. A novel multi-band thermal imaging system was proposed by DRS Leonardo for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Earth Science Technology Office Instrument Incubator Program, for which these criteria were assessed. The Multi-Band Uncooled Radiometer Imager (MURI) is a six spectral channel instrument designed to collect images in the thermal infrared, specifically in the range of 7.5 to 12.5 μm. The work detailed in this thesis characterizes the ability of a thermal imager with an uncooled microbolometer focal plane array to provide valuable data for environmental science applications. Here, a pair of studies using simulated data demonstrates the ability of a multispectral instrument such as MURI to detect enhanced levels of atmospheric methane using a novel approach that performs similarly to a state of the art algorithm when applied to MURI data. The novel method is evaluated using a controlled concentration simulated dataset to determine the extent of its detection capabilities and its dependence on atmospheric conditions. The methane investigations reveal the system is capable of detecting a 20 m thick CH4 plume of 10-20 ppm above background levels when column water vapor is low using both the NDMI and matched filter approaches. Additionally, land surface temperature and emissivity retrieval techniques were applied to experimental MURI data recorded during initial test flights to assess their accuracy with MURI data. Utilizing split window and Temperature Emissivity Separation make this examination distinct as this establishes that proven methods can be applied to uncooled multiband imager data. Application of these methods to MURI data demonstrated the system is capable of temperature retrievals with Root Mean Square Errors of less than 1 K to measured reference values and surface emissivity retrievals within 2% of reference database values. The definition and application of the Normalized Differential Methane Index in this thesis demonstrates a novel approach for detection of enhanced plumes of methane utilizing a multispectral system with only a single band allocated to methane absorption features.
Imaging Science (Ph.D.)
Department, Program, or Center
Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)
Webber, Cody M., "An Examination of Environmental Applications for Uncooled Thermal Infrared Remote Sensing Instruments" (2021). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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