The detection, location, and identification of suspected underground nuclear explosions (UNEs) are global security priorities that rely on integrated analysis of multiple data modalities for uncertainty reduction in event analysis. Vegetation disturbances may provide complementary signatures that can confirm or build on the observables produced by prompt sensing techniques such as seismic or radionuclide monitoring networks. For instance, the emergence of non-native species in an area may be indicative of anthropogenic activity or changes in vegetation health may reflect changes in the site conditions resulting from an underground explosion. Previously, we collected high spatial resolution (10 cm) hyperspectral data from an unmanned aerial system at a legacy underground nuclear explosion test site and its surrounds. These data consist of visible and near-infrared wavebands over 4.3 km2 of high desert terrain along with high spatial resolution (2.5 cm) RGB context imagery. In this work, we employ various spectral detection and classification algorithms to identify and map vegetation species in an area of interest containing the legacy test site. We employed a frequentist framework for fusing multiple spectral detections across various reference spectra captured at different times and sampled from multiple locations. The spatial distribution of vegetation species is compared to the location of the underground nuclear explosion. We find a difference in species abundance within a 130 m radius of the center of the test site.
Optical remote sensing has become a valuable tool in many application spaces because it can be unobtrusive, search large areas efficiently, and is increasingly accessible through commercially available products and systems. In the application space of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives (CBRNE) sensing, optical remote sensing can be an especially valuable tool because it enables data to be collected from a safe standoff distance. Data products and results from remote sensing collections can be combined with results from other methods to offer an integrated understanding of the nature of activities in an area of interest and may be used to inform in-situ verification techniques. This work will overview several independent research efforts focused on developing and leveraging spectral and polarimetric sensing techniques for CBRNE applications, including system development efforts, field deployment campaigns, and data exploitation and analysis results. While this body of work has primarily focused on the application spaces of chemical and underground nuclear explosion detection and characterization, the developed tools and techniques may have applicability to the broader CBRNE domain.
Hyperspectral and multispectral imagers have been developed and deployed on satellite and manned aerial platforms for decades and have been used to produce spectrally resolved reflectance and other radiometric products. Similarly, light detection and ranging, or LIDAR, systems are regularly deployed from manned aerial platforms to produce a variety of products, including digital elevation models. While both types of systems have demonstrated impressive capabilities from these conventional platforms, for some applications it is desirable to have higher spatial resolution and more deployment flexibility than satellite or manned aerial platforms can offer. Commercially available unmanned aerial systems, or UAS, have recently emerged as an alternative platform for deploying optical imaging and detection systems, including spectral imagers and high resolution cameras. By enabling deployments in rugged terrain, collections at low altitudes, and flight durations of several hours, UAS offer the opportunity to obtain high spatial resolution products over multiple square kilometers in remote locations. Taking advantage of this emerging capability, our team recently deployed a commercial UAS to collect hyperspectral imagery, RGB imagery, and photogrammetry products at a legacy underground nuclear explosion test site and its surrounds. Ground based point spectrometer data collected over the same area serves as ground truth for the airborne results. The collected data is being used to map the site and evaluate the utility of optical remote sensing techniques for measuring signatures of interest, such as the mineralogy, anthropogenic objects, and vegetative health. This work will overview our test campaign, our results to date, and our plans for future work.