Hyperspectral imaging technologies

NRC is operating one of the world's first airborne polarmetric shortwave infrared hyperspectral systems. Hyperspectral imaging is a remote sensing technology that can gather information on the intensity of reflected light to obtain a spectrum of wavelengths for each pixel in the image of a scene, with the purpose of finding specific objects, identifying materials, or detecting processes. Hyperspectral sensors measure the spectral signature of a scanned object and from that it is often able to identify the materials that form it.

Traditionally used in aircraft, satellites and handheld sensors for resource exploration, water quality assessment and identifying issues with agricultural crops of economic value, NRC is now developing this promising technology on manned and unmanned airborne platforms for defence and security, forensic sciences, and a number of environmental applications.

What we offer

Scientists and engineers at NRC have made some key enhancements and begun developing new applications to hyperspectral imaging technologies. A Shortwave infrared Airborne Spectrographic Imager (SASI) is available for remote sensing in airborne and atmospheric research. The system has 160 spectral channels covering the 850 nm to 2500 nm range of wavelengths and has a continuous data collection ability of up to five hours per flight. The SASI system can be optionally outfitted with user-specified polarization lenses which, like a pair of sunglasses, reduces haze and glare, thus providing a much clearer picture from the air than conventional imagers. The SASI instrument is primarily installed on NRC's Twin Otter aircraft but can also be used on NRC's Convair 580 aircraft.

We offer fee-for-service use of our technologies, supported by a team of research experts and highly-skilled pilots. Collaborative research opportunities and partnerships are also possible through our industry-driven programs.

Why work with us

NRC is a Canadian leader for remote sensing technologies and airborne research. Our clients and partners can tap into an extensive network that includes technology developers, academic researchers, federal government partners and end users to advance hyperspectral data acquisition and algorithm development for both military and civilian markets.

This versatile technology can be applied to support a number of areas, including law enforcement investigations (identifying mass or single burial sites); security and defence (roadside detection of improvised explosive devices); and, wildlife research (identifying and enumerating Arctic species like polar bears which are difficult to see from the air against white snow).

Forensic Remote Sensing

NRC has been working with our major partner - McGill University, as well as with the Canadian Police Research Centre and various law enforcement agencies to determine whether hyperspectral imaging can locate and identify missing persons that are thought to be buried in graves. When used in airborne research, hyperspectral imaging can detect zones of recently disturbed soil and looks at surface properties to give an indication of what may be below. To gather data, the researchers developed a well-controlled test site where they buried several pigs at various depths and under different conditions at NRC's flight research facility located at the Ottawa airport. Every time the Twin Otter takes flight, the NRC team fly over the burial site and take pictures to determine the timely effects at the surface.

NRC and McGill University are also monitoring the appearance of vegetation and soil at the “analogue” burial site over the next five years, as the pigs decompose. Over a long period of time, hyperspectral imaging can also look at different ways that plants grow around disturbed soil. Meanwhile, McGill University researchers will periodically take samples of soil, methane and other trace gases. The NRC team will analyze its data as a function of time because the grave of a human who has just gone missing would look substantially different than the grave of someone who has been buried for five or ten years.


We offer customized services options that include the support of test pilots, technical experts, research officers and engineers. Contact us to discuss your requirements and we can develop a plan to fit your technology needs.

Contact us

Contact us today to develop a customized service plan that fits your technology needs.

Business Development Team
Aerospace Research Centre
Email: nrc.aerobdt-edaaero.cnrc@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca