Keeping an eye on the environment

Flinders University’s environmental eye-in-the-sky will have even sharper vision thanks to the award of $450,000 of Australia Research Council infrastructure funding.

With the current array of airborne instrumentation complemented by a new hyper-spectral scanning capability, Airborne Research Australia’s (ARA) light-weight aircraft, which are based at Parafield Airport north of Adelaide, now have a unique capacity for environmental monitoring and research.

“This combination of instrumentation is absolutely unmatched anywhere in the world, even at much larger national research facilities,” ARA Director Dr Jorg Hacker said.

The use of hyper-spectral scanning, in both visible and infra red forms, in conjunction with ARA’s existing Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), microwave scanning and synthetic aperture radar capacity, will give researchers the ability to monitor and assess the types, condition and health of land and water on both local and regional scales (from metres up to tens of kilometres) in high resolution.

Applications for the equipment include soil moisture and water salinity monitoring, mineral mapping, vegetation mapping and classification, algal bloom detection and farmland monitoring and assessment.

“ARA is providing, at low cost, airborne remote sensing and airborne in-situ capabilities for use in science and science-related projects all over Australia and internationally,” Dr Hacker said.

Flinders University was also lead institution in a consortium of six universities that received a $630,000 grant for metastable induced electron spectroscopic equipment, a technology that enables highly sensitive examination and analysis of the outermost layer of a range of materials and minerals.

The new equipment will boost Australia’s strength in surface science, and is important for both fundamental and industry related research.

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