L-band radiometers have been historically used by space agencies and research institutes to estimate and analyze soil moisture and ocean salinity through remote sensing.

Space-borne radiometers are used for global climate change and water cycle studies. The advantage of satellite observations lie on their capability to provide time-continuous large-area measurements. Nevertheless, satellite observations suffer from coarse spatial resolutions. Current space-borne L-band radiometers offer spatial resolutions in the order of 40 km per pixel or 1 km with multisensor data fusion algorithms, making difficult their operational use for precision applications.

On ground, radiometers have been mainly used for satellite data and radiation model validation studies so far. They are large, heavy and complex systems offering high antenna directivity with multi-angular measurement capability, but at the expense of portability. This lack of mobility makes them not suitable to be used for ground measurement campaigns over large areas.

Top soil measurements over large areas with high spatial resolution was an application not covered yet. The depth of L-band radiometers measurement offers a trade-off option between thermal imagery and ground penetrating radars for top soil purposes.

Applications derived from the measurement of soil moisture distribution with spatial resolution up to 1 m over large areas are now feasible with the development of the first compact radiometers. Balamis has contributed to the development of the compact, portable and easy to use L-band radiometer ARIEL. ARIEL is a dual polarization L-band radiometer, designed to be simple, robust and capable to support high vibrations and impacts that may appear in operational field measurement campaigns.

The original ARIEL instrument, originally intended for soil moisture distribution for precision agriculture, has currently proven to contribute also to new ground remote sensing applications:

· Agriculture and environment: soil moisture & soil variability.

· Structures: moisture measurement, leakage detection and seepage.

· Sea ice: ice thickness.

· Roads: density changes.

The Balamis ARIEL L-band radiometer has modular electronics, which have made also possible the design and development of radiometers able to be on-board planes, drones and ground vehicles, in this case, ranging from ATV’s and tractors to sledges.

Author: Roger Jove

Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.