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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  News & Events  /  News  /  News Archive  /  March 2016  /  Pre-launch testing of BIOMASS vegetation detectors

Pre-launch testing of BIOMASS vegetation detectors

UCL Geography Earth Observation team in Ghana

Pre-launch testing of BIOMASS vegetation detectors

Dr Mat Disney, with PhD student Andy Burt and National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) Postdoc Phil Wilkes, travelled to Ghana in early March to measure a section of the Ankasa Forest Reserve in the Western Region of Ghana.

Mat's team were there as part of the European Space Agency-funded AfriSCAT project with colleagues from Wageningen University and CMCC in Italy. AfriSCAT is providing tower-mounted RADAR measurements of tropical forest in preparation for the launch of the ESA BIOMASS Earth Explorer satellite mission in 2020.

BIOMASS is a P-band (70cm) RADAR mission which is able to 'see' through dense forest canopies to the larger trunks and branches. Shorter wavelength RADAR (and optical signals) are unable to penetrate the upper part of dense tropical forests.

Pre-launch development and testing of instruments and algorithms is a key part of any space science mission. The measurements being made by Mat and colleagues in Ghana will help ESA mission scientists make the BIOMASS instrument perform as well as possible.

More generally, the measurements will add to the work already carried out by Mat’s group to measure forest structure and biomass in other parts of the tropics, as well as closer to home. Having the UCL and Wageningen teams working in tandem with two lidar detectors means they are able to cover ground more quickly and with less risk if one instrument fails. This is the first time two lidars have been deployed in this way in the tropics.

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Image: The ESA AfriSCAT RADAR instrument, mounted on a 50m tower, looking out over the Ankasa forest. Below, the UCL and Wageningen teams. Left to right:: Mat Disney, Alvaro Lau Sarmiento, Phil Wilkes, Andy Burt (both UCL Geog), and Justice Mensah, with the UCL Geography and Wageningen University lidar instruments.


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