Airborne Laboratory for Environmental Observation

The Aerial Environmental Research Laboratory (LARA) was established in 1990 as part of the Mezzogiorno Project – the CNR’s Strategic Project on Climate and Environment for the Italian South. This project aimed to develop both an acquisition system and an observational data processing methodology for data collected by the MIVIS airborne hyperspectral AA5000 spectrometer (Multispectral Visible and Infrared Imaging Spectrometer).

Beginning in 1993, Institute researchers and technicians were tasked with developing radiometric and atmospheric calibration procedures for the MIVIS spectrometer. They also developed the procedure that accounts for the Geometric Correction, to ensure that the radiometric and geometric data being collected is accurate.

Radiometric Calibrations:

  • The development of experimental procedures to verify the linearity of MIVIS responses;
  • The analysis of MIVIS scanner’s noise structures, using experimental procedures that separate the components of a signal from background noise by using Minimum Noise Fraction.

Atmospheric Corrections:

The development of algorithms for atmospheric correction of MIVIS data based on radiative transfer between land and air. These particular algorithms highlight spectral characteristics of radiation as it interacts with the atmosphere, to obtain ground conditions that are accurately and precisely reflected in the pixels of the sensor. Such operating algorithms are essential to operating the MIVIS spectrometer, processing its data, and in identifying/recognizing aspects of the landscape with specific spectral characteristics. Moreover, these procedures also allow us to analyse atmospheric aerosol and water vapor using only MIVIS data, with no additional data collected on the ground.

Geometric Corrections:

  • The development of geometric correction procedures using navigation data, corrected with control points;
  • The development of an automatic procedure with an error of less than 2 pixels, allowing for aerial photos based on MIVIS data.

The planning and execution of field surveys, aerial in-situ calibrations, and data validation in the characterization of surfaces and identification of targets of interest. These activities require a preliminary, improvised, well-executed measurement campaign that takes into account the characteristics of the territory being examined, the details of the phenomena in question, and the variables being observed.

These procedures are developed and validated in order to improve the accuracy of the radiometric and geometric MIVIS data, both from a qualitative point of view and in terms of the needs of the customer, whether it be a research institute or a government agency.

The Institute’s researchers and engineers have developed and validated procedures for improving the accuracy of the MIVIS images as they are applied to the study and monitoring of the Earth’s surface. In particular, we have developed procedures to optimize the accuracy of:

Atmospheric Parameters:

  • The analysis and monitoring of specific atmospheric parameters through MIVIS data, such as the type of aerosols being observed, their optical thickness at 550nm, and indications of aerosol load.

Principal Bio-Optical Components of Bodies of Water:

  • The development of a characterization and quantitative-monitoring system for phytoplankton, dissolved substances, and water particles, based on equations approximating radiative transfer in water.

Algal Species:

  • The spectral characterization and monitoring of different types of algae, to help manage coastal areas, wetlands, and lagoons.

Vegetation Types:

  • The spectral characterization and monitoring of predominant plant species;
  • The spectral characterization and identification of possible anomalies in principal grain crops and agricultural soils, both to calculate value-added products and to support intelligent agriculture (with precise calculations of fertilizer, yield, water stress, etc.).

Archaeological Structures, In and Beyond the Subsurface:

  • The detection of underground archaeological structures using MIVIS data, and the identification of spectral ranges and/or synthetic images that are best suited to analyzing (archaeologically and otherwise) a given environment.

Cover Materials In Urban, Rural, and Industrial Areas, Upon Client Request (ie, asphalt, asbestos cement, serpentine, bauxite processing residues, etc..):

  • The analysis of spectral signatures for quantitative measurements of any material of interest;
  • The classification of materials with improved thematic accuracy;
  • The identification and mapping of targets of interest.


Institute researchers and technicians have participated in numerous CAL / VAL international campaigns, including those examining Hyperion satellite hyperspectral data, the Venice lagoon (NASA-JPL project NRA-99-0ES-01), and the CHRIS data from Barrax, Spain (SPARC – 2004 and SEN2FLEX-2005).

In 2011, LARA’s PHYM-CLAM (PRISMA Coastal and Lake Assessment and Monitoring) project won an award for “Scientific Studies in Support of the PRISMA Mission” from the Italian Space Agency (ASI 6631 of July 28, 2009).