A microbolometer airborne calibrated infrared radiometer: The ball experimental sea surface temperature (BESST) radiometer

William J. Emery, William S. Good, William Tandy, Miguel Angel Izaguirre, Peter J. Minnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


A calibrated radiometer has been developed to enable the collection of accurate infrared measurements of sea surface temperature (SST) from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). A key feature of this instrument is that in situ calibration is achieved with two built-in blackbodies (BBs). The instrument is designed so that the 2-D microbolometer array produces infrared images incremented as the aircraft travels, resulting in a well-calibrated strip of SST. Designed to be carried by medium-class UAVs, the Ball Experimental SST (BESST) instrument has been also successfully flown on manned aircraft. A recent intercalibration of BESST was carried out at the University of Miami using their National Institute of Standards and Technology traceable water-bath BB and a Fourier transform interferometer, the Marine-Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer (M-AERI). The characterization of the BESST instrument with the Miami BB demonstrates the linearity and precision of the response of the microbolometer-based radiometer. Coincident measurements of SST from a nearby pier clearly demonstrated the excellent performance of the BESST instrument with a mean SST equal to that of the M-AERI and an RMS of 0.14 K very close to the microbolometer's advertised precision of 0.1 K. Cold calibration was not possible in Miami due to condensation, but a Ball BB was characterized relative to the Miami water-bath BB, and calibrations were made in Boulder at lower temperatures than were possible in Miami. The BESST instrument's performance remained linear, and the mean and RMS values did not change. UAV flights were conducted in summer/fall of 2013 over the Alaskan Arctic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6822518
Pages (from-to)7775-7781
Number of pages7
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2014


  • Microbolometer
  • radiometer
  • sea surface temperature (SST)
  • thermal infrared

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'A microbolometer airborne calibrated infrared radiometer: The ball experimental sea surface temperature (BESST) radiometer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this