Flood detection and monitoring with the Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment onboard EO-1

Felipe Ip, J. M. Dohm, V. R. Baker, T. Doggett, A. G. Davies, R. Castaño, S. Chien, B. Cichy, R. Greeley, R. Sherwood, D. Tran, G. Rabideau

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79 Scopus citations


In this paper, we present a new way of detecting and monitoring flooding through the Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment (ASE) [Chien, S. T., Debban, C., Yen, R., Sherwood, R. Castano, B., & Cichy, A. G. et al. (2001). ASC Science Study Report, available from http://ASE.jpl.nasa.gov], which is part of the Space Technology 6 effort under NASA's New Millennium Program. Recent autonomy experiments conducted on Earth Observing 1 (EO-1) using the ASE flight software have demonstrated the ability of several science algorithms to successfully classify key features including flood-induced changes, in hyperspectral images captured by the EO-1 Hyperion instrument. Furthermore, onboard science analysis on the classified images has been performed, and then used to modify an operational plan without interaction from the ground (Sherwood, R., Chien, S., Tran, D., Cichy, B., Castano, R., Davies, A., et al. (2004). Preliminary results of the autonomous sciencecraft experiment. In: Proceedings of the IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, MT). These algorithms are used to downlink science data only when change occurs, and to detect features of scientific interests such as flooding, volcanic eruptions, and the formation and breakup of sea ice. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the success of ASE and its implications on detecting, mapping, and monitoring transient processes such as flooding autonomously from space. Mapping of water inundation and its change through time is part of our focus in studying transient processes from space. In 2004, hyperspectral data were acquired from the Hyperion instrument for target areas around the world that have a high potential for flooding to develop and test floodwater classifiers. In addition, classifier thresholds were determined from both normal flows and possible flood conditions. The paper introduces the development, testing, and success of the ASE software in detecting and reacting to flooding in near real-time. ASE is now operational and flight-tested, and, thus, ready to use for space-borne reconnaissance. Successful demonstration of the floodwater classifiers includes the capture of a rare flooding event of the Australian Diamantina River during ground testing in February 2004, and the detection of flood-related changes along the Brahmaputra River in Bangladesh and the Yukon River in Alaska during onboard testing on EO-1 in 2005. Both of these detections led to triggered responses onboard the spacecraft, which included acquiring additional Hyperion scenes. These results pave the way for future smart reconnaissance missions of transient processes on Earth and beyond. It is hoped that ASE will become a default in future missions to increase the science return by introducing spacecraft autonomy for detection and monitoring of science events, which otherwise would be discovered too late or altogether missed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-481
Number of pages19
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 30 2006


  • ASE
  • Autonomous flood detection
  • EO-1
  • Flood monitoring
  • Hyperion
  • Remote sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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