Comparison of image georeferencing strategies for agricultural applications of small unoccupied aircraft systems

N. Ace Pugh, Kelly R. Thorp, Emmanuel M. Gonzalez, Diaa Eldin M. Elshikha, Duke Pauli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Small unoccupied aircraft systems (sUAS) are becoming popular for mapping applications in agriculture, and photogrammetry software is available for developing orthorectified imagery and three-dimensional surface models. Ground control points (GCPs), which are objects or locations with known geographic coordinates, may be required for accurate image georeferencing. However, few studies have compared global position equipment among sUAS or investigated the effects of GCP number or arrangement on georeferencing accuracy. The objectives of this study were to evaluate numbers and configurations of GCPs for georeferencing sUAS-acquired images and determine the GCP requirements for sUAS with and without real-time kinematic (RTK) global positioning equipment. The effects of varying numbers and configurations of GCPs were investigated on both a 0.40-ha area the size of a typical plant breeding trial and a 64.7-ha area (i.e., a U.S. quarter section) the size of a typical agricultural production field. Results demonstrated that four GCPs placed at the corners of the breeding-scale field resulted in two-dimensional (2D) error of ±3 cm in the absence of RTK, with minimal improvements when including more GCPs. The orthomosaics from the RTK-equipped sUAS demonstrated improved 2D accuracy even without the use of GCPs, with a maximum mean error of 0.08 m. Four GCPs were found to be sufficient to reduce altitudinal (Z) error, with maximum mean error of only 0.05 and 1.98 m for the RTK and non-RTK flights, respectively, for the production-scale field. Thus, using four GCPs, RTK-equipped sUAS, or a combination will result in improved georeferencing for photogrammetry products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20026
JournalPlant Phenome Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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