The Airborne Prism Experiment (APEX) is a hyperspectral instrument built in a Swiss - Belgian collaboration within the
ESA-PRODEX program. It aims at highest possible accuracy of its delivered surface reflectance image data products.
The atmospheric correction of hyperspectral imagery is a critical element of a complete processing chain towards
unbiased reflectance and for the creation of higher level products. As the first data of APEX is expected to become
available in 2009, an appropriate processing chain for higher level processing needs to be defined and evaluated.
Standard products have been identified in all application fields of hyperspectral imaging, i.e., geology, vegetation,
cryosphere, limnology and atmosphere. They are being implemented at the APEX science center. The according
processing procedures rely on data of well-defined processing states which range from calibrated at-sensor radiance to
(bihemispherical) spectral albedo.
In this paper, the atmospheric processing which is implemented as part of the automated data processing chain for level 2
in the APEX processing and archiving facility (PAF) at VITO (Mol, Belgium) is evaluated together with the
ATCOR-4 atmospheric correction program. The evaluation is done regarding flexibility, reflectance output
accuracy and processing efficiency. Two test data sets are taken for this purpose: a well-documented set of HYMAP data and a high resolution HYSPEX data set. Both data sets exhibit areas of overlap, which are taken for self-contained
analysis of the atmospheric correction procedure. The accuracy tests include plausibility checks on selected
regions of interest including a variety of known surfaces in the imagery. As some of the observed effects are related to
BRDF differences, the results also give an indication for the inaccuracy related to these reflectance anisotropies. Speed
measurements of the processing are then compared to the demand for operational processing of series of data acquisition.
Further comparison information is drawn from the by-products of atmospheric correction such as water vapor
The study shows performance and limitations of atmospheric correction using the state-of-the-art technology, which are
mainly found in the field of BRDF effects. This points towards improvements to be implemented in course of the further
development of the higher level processing chain for the APEX sensor.