An Operational Radiometric Correction Technique for Shadow Reduction in Multispectral UAV Imagery

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This study focuses on the recovery of information from shadowed pixels in RGB or multispectral imagery sensed from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The proposed technique is based on the concept that a property characterizing a given surface is its spectral reflectance, i.e., the ratio between the flux reflected by the surface and the radiant flux received by the surface, and this ratio is usually similar under direct-plus-diffuse irradiance and under diffuse irradiance when a Lambertian behavior can be assumed. Scene-dependent elements, such as trees, shrubs, man-made constructions, or terrain relief, can block part of the direct irradiance (usually sunbeams), in which part of the surface only receives diffuse irradiance. As a consequence, shadowed surfaces comprising pixels of the image created by the UAV remote sensor appear. Regardless of whether the imagery is analyzed by means of photointerpretation or digital classification methods, when the objective is to create land cover maps, it is hard to treat these areas in a coherent way in terms of the areas receiving direct and diffuse irradiance. The hypothesis of the present work is that the relationship between irradiance conditions in shadowed areas and non-shadowed areas can be determined by following classical empirical line techniques for fulfilling the objective of a coherent treatment in both kinds of areas. The novelty of the presented method relies on the simultaneous recovery of information in non-shadowed and shadowed areas by the in situ spectral reflectance measurements of characterized Lambertian targets followed by smoothing of the penumbra area. Once in the lab, firstly, we accurately detected the shadowed pixels by combining two well-known techniques for the detection of the shadowed areas: (1) using a physical approach based on the sun’s position and the digital surface model of the area covered by the imagery; and (2) the image-based approach using the histogram properties of the intensity image. In this paper, we present the benefits of the combined usage of both techniques. Secondly, we applied a fit between non-shadowed and shadowed areas by using a twin set of spectrally characterized target sets. One set was placed under direct and diffuse irradiance (non-shadowed targets), whereas the second set (with the same spectral characteristics) was placed under diffuse irradiance (shadowed targets). Assuming that the reflectance of the homologous targets of each set was the same, we approximated the diffuse incoming irradiance through an empirical line correction. The model was applied to all detected shadowed areas in the whole scene. Finally, a smoothing filter was applied to the penumbra transitions. The presented empirical method allowed the operational and coherent recovery of information from shadowed areas, which is very common in high-resolution UAV imagery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
Number of pages1
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • Drone
  • Field spectroradiometry
  • Radiometric correction
  • Shadow detection
  • Shadow reduction
  • UAS
  • UAV


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