Remote Sensing (Aug 2018)

Crop Classification in a Heterogeneous Arable Landscape Using Uncalibrated UAV Data

  • Jonas E. Böhler,
  • Michael E. Schaepman,
  • Mathias Kneubühler

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 8
p. 1282


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Land cover maps are indispensable for decision making, monitoring, and management in agricultural areas, but they are often only available after harvesting. To obtain a timely crop map of a small-scale arable landscape in the Swiss Plateau, we acquired uncalibrated, very high-resolution data, with a spatial resolution of 0.05 m and four spectral bands, using a consumer-grade camera on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in June 2015. We resampled the data to different spatial and spectral resolutions, and evaluated the method using textural features (first order statistics and mathematical morphology), a random forest classifier for best performance, as well as number and size of the structuring elements. Our main findings suggest the overall best performing data consisting of a spatial resolution of 0.5 m, three spectral bands (RGB—red, green, and blue), and five different sizes of the structuring elements. The overall accuracy (OA) for the full set of crop classes based on a pixel-based classification is 66.7%. In case of a merged set of crops, the OA increases by ~7% (74.0%). For an object-based classification based on individual field parcels, the OA increases by ~20% (OA of 86.3% for the full set of crop classes, and 94.6% for the merged set, respectively). We conclude the use of UAV to be most relevant at 0.5 m spatial resolution in heterogeneous arable landscapes when used for crop classification.