Assessment of Surface Soil Moisture Using High-Resolution Multi-Spectral Imagery and Artificial Neural Networks

L. Hassan-Esfahani
A. Torres-Rua
A. Jensen
Mac McKee, Utah State University


Many crop production management decisions can be informed using data from high-resolution aerial images that provide information about crop health as influenced by soil fertility and moisture. Surface soil moisture is a key component of soil water balance, which addresses water and energy exchanges at the surface/atmosphere interface; however, high-resolution remotely sensed data is rarely used to acquire soil moisture values. In this study, an artificial neural network (ANN) model was developed to quantify the effectiveness of using spectral images to estimate surface soil moisture. The model produces acceptable estimations of surface soil moisture (root mean square error (RMSE) = 2.0, mean absolute error (MAE) = 1.8, coefficient of correlation (r) = 0.88, coefficient of performance (e) = 0.75 and coefficient of determination (R2) = 0.77) by combining field measurements with inexpensive and readily available remotely sensed inputs. The spatial data (visual spectrum, near infrared, infrared/thermal) are produced by the AggieAir™ platform, which includes an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that enables users to gather aerial imagery at a low price and high spatial and temporal resolutions. This study reports the development of an ANN model that translates AggieAir™ imagery into estimates of surface soil moisture for a large field irrigated by a center pivot sprinkler system.