Stand-off identification in the field using thermal infrared spectrometers (hyperspectral) is a maturing technique for gases and aerosols. However, capabilities to identify solid-phase materials on the surface lag substantially, particularly for identification in the field without benefit of ground truth (e.g. for "denied areas"). Spectral signatures of solid phase materials vary in complex and non-intuitive ways, including non-linear variations with surface texture, particle size, and intimate mixing. Also, in contrast to airborne or satellite measurements, reflected downwelling radiance strongly affects the signature measured by field spectrometers. These complex issues can confound interpretations or cause a misidentification in the field.
Problems that remain particularly obstinate are (1) low ambiguity identification when there is no accompanying ground truth (e.g. measurements of denied areas, or Mars surface by the 2003 Mars lander spectrometer); (2) real- or near real-time identification, especially when a low ambiguity answer is critical; (3) identification of intimate mixtures (e.g. two fine powders mixed together) and targets composed of very small particles (e.g. aerosol fallout dust, some tailings); and (4) identification of non-diffuse targets (e.g. smooth coatings such as paint and desert varnish), particularly when measured at a high emission angle. In most studies that focus on gas phase targets or specific manmade targets, the solid phase background signatures are called "clutter" and are thrown out.
Here we discuss our field spectrometer images measured of test targets that were selected to include a range of particle sizes, diffuse, non-diffuse, high, and low reflectance materials. This study was designed to identify and improve understanding of the issues that complicate stand-off identification in the field, with a focus on developing identification capabilities to proceed without benefit of ground truth. This information allows both improved measurement protocols and identification quality.
The Aerospace Corporation has a mature program for field hyperspectral measurements using van-mounted thermal-infrared spectrometers that raster-scan images. Aerospace is a non-profit Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), managed by the Department of Defense. The precisely controlled viewing geometery, imaging capabilities, and sensitivity of the spectrometers used are critical to identifying and studying issues that can confound interpretations or cause a misidentification. We have released a portion of this data set publicly, and encourage researchers interested in the data set to contact us. More information is at www.lpi.usra.edu/science/kirkland.