water body characterization with drones

mapEO water provides a processing workflow in the cloud for aerial drone images visualizing water bodies like a river, lake or sea. It assists you to obtain georeferenced images with corrected quantitative values representative for the water column. This allows to derive information such as, but not limited to, turbidity or chlorophyll concentrations.

The water case has some specific challenges that need to be tackled. Some of these issues are listed below:

  • Water bodies often look dark on images resulting in a much lower signal-to-noise ratio compared to land applications.
  • The interaction of the incoming light with the atmosphere just above the water surface might have a major influence (sky glint). Luckily, this can be modelled through a modified version of VITO’s atmospheric correction algorithm iCOR (iCOR4Drones).
  • The water surface acts as a mirror (sun glint). Therefore, a well-adapted flight protocol and hardware setup is indispensable.
  • The water column is often a dynamic environment subjected to e.g. current or tide resulting in a rapidly changing scene under investigation.


georeferenced products and hardware setups

You can obtain georeferenced products such as:

  • Water-leaving reflectance (intermediate product)
  • Turbidity
  • Suspended sediments
  • Chlorophyll

mapEO water also supports a series of hardware setups:

  • RGB
    • DJI Phantom 4 Pro (version 1)
  • Multispectral
    • MicaSense RedEdge-M + auxiliary sensors (DLS-1)
    • MicaSense RedEdge-M + auxiliary sensors (DLS-2)
    • MicaSense Dual Camera + auxiliary sensors (DLS-2)
    • DJI P4 Multispectral

Data upload to the MAPEO backend for further processing can be easily done through the Fieldsoftware tool. This software also performs a first quality control while in the field.
Guidelines for data collection and upload are available (p. 29 onwards).

Over the past years, VITO Remote Sensing built up an expertise in water body characterization from drones through different research projects supported by Belspo (DroneSED) and the European Commission H2020 program (MONOCLE).

Are you interested to learn more about the value of the output of MapEO water? Contact us to see if we can setup a test campaign to demonstrate how mapEO can support your projects.


  • Mapping water quality with drones - test case in Texel
    De Keukelaere, L., Moelans, R. Strackx, S., Knaeps, E., Lemey, E. 2019. Mapping water quality with drones - Test case in Texel. Terra et Aqua, 157, 6 - 16.

    Read the full paper in 'Terra et Aqua', IADC's quarterly publication.

Liesbeth De Keukelaere received the IADC Young Author Award for co-authoring of this research paper at the CEDA Dredging Days 2019. Click here for more information about this award.