Jordi Inglada
27 Apr 2010

Open tools for modeling and simulation

I has been now nearly 2 months since I moved to a new job. My research subject has slightly evolved, from sub-meter resolution image information extraction (mainly object recognition for scene interpretation) towards high temporal resolution for environment applications. The change in the resolution dimension (from spatial to temporal) is the main re-orientation of the work, but if I have to be honest, this would not be challenging enough to justify leaving what I was doing before, the nice colleagues I had (though the new ones are also very nice), etc.

The main challenge of the new job is to dive in the world of physics and modelling. Although I did a lot of physical modelling and simulation in my PhD, this was 10 years ago and it was SAR over the ocean, while now it is mainly optical over continental surfaces.

I have the chance to have landed on a lab with people who are specialists of these topics, so I can ask lots of questions about very specific issues. The problem is that I am lacking basic knowledge about state of the art approaches and I don't like to bother my new colleagues (since they are nice!) with stupid questions.

There is where open available ressources are very helpful. I will just cite 2 pointers among the lots of relevant stuff I am using for my learning.

In terms of modelling the physical and biological processes in an agricultural field, I found Daisy, which is an open source simulation system developed by Søren Hansen's team at the University of Copenhagen. Added to the source code, there is a very rich theoretical documentation available.

Once these processes are understood and simulated, I was also interested in learning how things can be measured by optical sensors. I found Stephane Jacquemoud's PROSAIL approach for which source code and reference documentation (papers, PhD dissertations) are available online.

From there, I just put things together in order to learn with a hands on approach. PROSAIL is Fortran and Daisy is C++. I wanted to plot some simulated vegetation spectra. So I fired up Emacs and started writing some python code in order to loop over variable ranges, launch the simulators, plot things with, and so on. And then, I remembered that we have python wrappers for OTB, which would make possible the use of the 6S radiative transfer code using OTB's internal version of it.

And here we are, with a fully open source system which allows to do pysics-based remote sensing. Isn't that cool?

Tags: open-source remote-sensing
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