Our paper presenting a first demonstration of using Planet Labs CubeSats to track fine-scale changes in surface water extent has recently been published in Remote Sensing. CubeSats, tiny, satellites the size of a loaf of bread, represent a major potential advance in remote sensing due to their ability to image the entire planet at 3-6m resolution every day. However, due to the cheap sensors used, they have significant quality limitations and therefore remain generally unused within the hydrology research community. In this paper we present a new method for detecting surface water extent from variable quality CubeSat imagery and validate our water extraction method using concurrent WorldView imagery. We additionally apply our method over a small 625 km2 area of the Yukon Flats, Alaska and analyze the hydrologic connectivity of the floodplain.
- Surface water area can be reliably extracted from Planet imagery with an RMSE of <11%.
- Observed changes in lake extent in the Yukon Flats in summer 2016 are spatially heterogeneous and reflect a complex interplay of flow paths, underlying geology and permafrost presence.
- While cross-sensor consistency, automated cloud masking and geolocation problems still need to be resolved, Planet CubeSat imagery represents a valuable new resource for hydrologic remote sensing.
I also had the opportunity to give a talk about my CubeSat research at the 2017 AGU conference in December and speak at the Planet Town Hall session, a summary of which can be found here.