U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Document Type


Date of this Version



Computers and Electronics in Agriculture 76 (2011) 59–68.


U.S. government work.


Many agricultural studies rely on infrared sensors for remote measurement of surface temperatures for crop status monitoring and estimating sensible and latent heat fluxes. Historically, applications for these non-contact thermometers employed the use of hand-held or stationary industrial infrared thermometers (IRTs) wired to data loggers. Wireless sensors in agricultural applications are a practical alternative, but the availability of low cost wireless IRTs is limited. In this study, we designed prototype narrow (10◦) field of view wireless infrared sensor modules and evaluated the performance of the IRT sensor by comparing temperature readings of an object (Tobj) against a blackbody calibrator in a controlled temperature room at ambient temperatures of 15 ◦C, 25 ◦C, 35 ◦C, and 45 ◦C. Additional comparative readings were taken over plant and soil samples alongside a hand-held IRT and over an isothermal target in the outdoors next to a wired IRT. The average root mean square error (RMSE) and mean absolute error (MAE) between the collected IRT object temperature readings and the blackbody target ranged between 0.10 and 0.79 ◦C. The wireless IRT readings also compared well with the hand-held IRT and wired industrial IRT. Additional tests performed to investigate the influence of direct radiation on IRT measurements indicated that housing the sensor in white polyvinyl chloride provided ample shielding for the self-compensating circuitry of the IR detector. The relatively low cost of the wireless IRT modules and repeatable measurements against a blackbody calibrator and commercial IR thermometers demonstrated that these wireless prototypes have the potential to provide accurate surface radiometric temperature readings in outdoor applications. Further studies are needed to thoroughly test radio frequency communication and power consumption characteristics in an outdoor setting.