SLU/TGI-hosted Headwall Hyperspectral Imaging Workshop Distills Knowledge, Attracts Talent

Photo collage of 2023 TGI Fellows.

Taylor Geospatial Institute Acting Director Vasit Sagan addresses attendees of the Headwall Photonics hyperspectral imaging workshop held at Saint Louis University and hosted by TGI on May 16-17, 2023.

by Bob Grant

ST. LOUIS — “Welcome to the geospatial capital of the world.” That was how Vasit Sagan, Acting Director of the Taylor Geospatial Institute, kicked off a two-day hyperspectral imaging workshop put on by Headwall Photonics and hosted by TGI at Saint Louis University on May 16 and 17, 2023. Headwall is a leading manufacturer of advanced spectral imaging sensors, and the company provides TGI researchers with powerful aerial scanning, data collection, and information processing capabilities. “We have been using Headwall sensors in our remote sensing field work for years now, and their instruments afford us a high level of resolution and precision,” said TGI geospatial data scientist Justin Vilbig, who also helped plan and organize the event. “The company has been a great partner for this workshop, and their team showed a real passion for empowering hyperspectral and geospatial researchers. This workshop was a great way to showcase hyperspectral research in our region and was full of practical tips for working with hyperspectral data collection and analysis.”

Gregg Williams, Headwall Regional Sales Manager, said that this workshop was a standout among the others that the company has held. “We’ve had four of these workshops,” he noted near the end of the event, “and this one was the best attended by far.” 

More than 60 attendees from across the US participated in scientific presentations from geospatial researchers, informational sessions on technical and logistical aspects of using hyperspectral imaging, and a demonstration drone flight that captured visible light, near-infrared, and light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data from a SLU quadrangle. Karem Abdelmohsen and Mustafa Emil, both postdoctoral researchers in the Western Michigan University remote sensing lab of Mohamed Sultan, drove about seven hours from Kalamazoo, Michigan, to attend the workshop. “We were here to find out new ways to process hyperspectral data,” said Emil, who added that he and Abdelmohsen were hoping to use that knowledge to enhance a proposal for incorporating such data into their research on different hydrological and environmental features of areas across the globe. “We have seen great presentations on how to deal with and process these huge datasets.”

Williams added that the workshop’s success owed to diversity, not only in terms of the expertise held by attendees—from agricultural science and civil engineering to water quality and phenotyping—but also in their professional contexts. Among several academic scientists, there were participants from non-profit organizations, government outfits, and industry. “[The workshop] was not just for universities,” said Wiliams. 

At the end of a busy but fruitful workshop, Williams said that SLU and TGI were ideal hosts for the event. “The facilities are perfect,” he said. “The location is excellent.” 

Sagan noted that TGI plans to hold many such workshops at SLU in the future. “The anticipated launch of dozens of satellites with hyperspectral imaging cameras in the next couple of years will provide unprecedented opportunities to better understand our world and develop cutting-edge solutions to global challenges such as climate change and food security,” he said. “This workshop and future such events hosted by TGI can play important roles in training the next generation of remote sensing leaders in hands-on data collection and analysis and in drone-based hyperspectral imaging, which will allow us to build local models.”