The Potential of Low-Cost UAVs and Open-Source Photogrammetry Software for High-Resolution Monitoring of Alpine Glaciers: A Case Study from the Kanderfirn (Swiss Alps)

Groos, Alexander R.; Bertschinger, Thalia J.; Kummer, Céline M.; Erlwein, Sabrina; Munz, Lukas; Philipp, Andreas (2019). The Potential of Low-Cost UAVs and Open-Source Photogrammetry Software for High-Resolution Monitoring of Alpine Glaciers: A Case Study from the Kanderfirn (Swiss Alps). Geosciences, 9(8), p. 356. MDPI 10.3390/geosciences9080356

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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are a rapidly evolving tool in geosciences and are increasingly deployed for studying the dynamic processes of the earth’s surface. To assess the potential of autonomous low-cost UAVs for the mapping and monitoring of alpine glaciers, we conducted multiple aerial surveys on the Kanderfirn in the Swiss Alps in 2017 and 2018 using open hardware and software of the Paparazzi UAV project. The open-source photogrammetry software OpenDroneMap was tested for the generation of high-resolution orthophotos and digital surface models (DSMs) from aerial imagery and cross-checked with the well-established proprietary software Pix4D. Accurately measured ground control points served for the determination of the geometric accuracy of the orthophotos and DSMs. A horizontal (xy) accuracy of 0.7–1.2 m and a vertical (z) accuracy of 0.7–2.1 m was achieved for OpenDroneMap, compared to a xy-accuracy of 0.3–0.5 m and a z-accuracy of 0.4–0.5 m obtained for Pix4D. Based on the analysis and comparison of different orthophotos and DSMs, surface elevation, roughness and brightness changes from 3 June to 29 September 2018 were quantified. While the brightness of the glacier surface decreased linearly over the ablation season, the surface roughness increased. The mean DSM-based elevation change across the glacier tongue was 8 m, overestimating the measured melting and surface lowering at the installed ablation stakes by about 1.5 m. The presented results highlight that self-built fixed-wing UAVs in tandem with open-source photogrammetry software are an affordable alternative to commercial remote-sensing platforms and proprietary software. The applied low-cost approach also provides great potential for other regions and geoscientific disciplines

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Paleo-Geoecology
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Groos, Alexander Raphael; Bertschinger, Thalia Juliana and Munz, Lukas

Subjects:

900 History > 910 Geography & travel
500 Science
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology

ISSN:

2076-3263

Publisher:

MDPI

Language:

English

Submitter:

Lukas Munz

Date Deposited:

27 Aug 2019 08:27

Last Modified:

25 Oct 2019 07:59

Publisher DOI:

10.3390/geosciences9080356

Related URLs:

Uncontrolled Keywords:

glacier monitoring; glacier dynamics; Unmanned Aerial Vehicles; Paparazzi UAV; OpenDroneMap; photogrammetry; structure from motion; orthophotos; digital elevation models

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.132591

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/132591

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