Multiple drone flights through the season can highlight seasonal differences in plant functional groups

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This study tested four flight frequencies during the growing season. Classification accuracy based on reference data increased by 5–10% between a single flight and scenarios including all conducted flights. Accuracy increased from 50.6% to 61.4% at the drier site, while at the more mesic/densely vegetated site, we found an increase of 59.0% to 64.4% between a single and multiple flights over the growing season. Peak green-up varied by 2–4 weeks within the scenes, and sparse vegetation classes had only a short detectable window of active photosynthesis; therefore, a single flight could not capture all vegetation that was active across the growing season. The multi-temporal analyses identified differences in the seasonal timing of green-up and senescence within herbaceous and sagebrush classes. Multiple UAV measurements can identify the fine-scale phenological variability in complex mixed grass/shrub vegetation.


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