Refining atmosphere profiles for aerial target detection models

Robert Grimming, Patrick Leslie, Derek Burrell, Gerald Holst, Brian Davis, Ronald Driggers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Atmospheric path radiance in the infrared is an extremely important quantity in calculating system performance in certain infrared detection systems. For infrared search and track (IRST) system performance calculations, the path radiance competes with the target for precious detector well electrons. In addition, the radiance differential between the target and the path radiance defines the signal level that must be detected. Long-range, high-performance, offensive IRST system design depends on accurate path radiance predictions. In addition, in new applications such as drone detection where a dim unresolved target is embedded into a path radiance background, sensor design and performance are highly dependent on atmospheric path radiance. Being able to predict the performance of these systems under particular weather conditions and locations has long been an important topic. MODTRAN has been a critical tool in the analysis of systems and prediction of electro-optical system performance. The authors have used MODTRAN over many years for an average system performance using the typical “pull-down” conditions in the software. This article considers the level of refinement required for a custom MODTRAN atmosphere profile to satisfactorily model an infrared camera’s performance for a specific geographic location, date, and time. The average difference between a measured sky brightness temperature and a MODTRAN predicted value is less than 0.5 C with sufficient atmosphere profile updates. The agreement between experimental results and MODTRAN predictions indicates the effectiveness of including updated atmospheric composition, radiosonde, and air quality data from readily available Internet sources to generate custom atmosphere profiles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7067
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Atmospheric radiation
  • Infrared detection
  • Path radiance
  • Sky temperatures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Information Systems
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biochemistry
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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