Thomas Cooley – Hyperspectral Imaging


Guest NameThomas CooleyGuest CredentialsChief Scientist, AFRL Space Vehicles DirectorateInterview TitleHyperspectral Imaging

Interview Details


We’re joined by Dr. Thomas Cooley, Chief Scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate, and we’re discussing the scientific & commercial applications of hyperspectral imaging.

Tom has a PhD in Optical Sciences, and MS in Applied Physics, and a NS in Electrical Engineering – and a 25-year career with AFRL. He wrote the book on this topic, entitled “Hyperspectral Imaging & Remote Sensing”, available on Amazon.

His roles have included Program management, the Space ISR Mission Lead, Senior Scientist for Situational Awareness – and for the last 5 years, Chief Scientist in the Space Vehicles Directorate, where he assists with the planning and execution of an annual $165M Air Force science and technology program and serves as the OSD Space Community of Interest lead for all space-related science and technology issues across the DoD.

He joins us to discuss advances in hyperspectral imaging and how those are empowering ISR advances within the DoD, and offering new capabilities to science and industry as well.

Hyperspectral imaging is also referred to as “imaging spectroscopy”, which involves capturing continuous and contiguous ranges of wavelengths of light instead of discrete chunks of the spectrum as typically captured in multispectral imaging.

The images produced by hyperspectral imaging are somewhat different than a traditional photograph, and traditionally represented in a three-dimensional (3D) data cube composed of stacked images of the same scene seen at adjacent wavelengths. This dimensions of this data cube are built up from the satellite cross-track, along-track, and wavelength range data.

In addition to the public sector, Hyperspectral imaging is finding early commercial applications as well. The Carnegie Airborne Observatory is using them to map the chemical properties of forests, ImpactVision is using them to estimate the shelf-life of food, and Rebellion Photonics is using them as part of a safety system on oil rigs.

The cost & size of this technology is one factor driving commercial availability. For example, BaySpec sells HSI imaging systems that fit on drones for around $5,000. While small commercial systems lack the full spectral field available in traditional hyperspectral imaging systems, they do fill a number of market applications and may drive future demand for HSI systems.

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