Comparing UAV and Pole Photogrammetry for Monitoring Beach Erosion

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Virginia Tech


Sandy beaches are vulnerable to extreme erosion during large storms, as well as gradual erosion processes over months and years. Without monitoring and adaptation strategies, erosion can put people, homes, and other infrastructure at risk. To effectively manage beach resources and respond to erosion hazards, coastal managers must have a reliable means of surveying the beach to monitor erosion and accretion. These elevation surveys typically incorporate traditional ground-based surveying methods or lidar surveys flown from large, fixed-wing aircraft. While both strategies are effective, advancements in photogrammetric technology offers a new solution for topographic surveying: Structure from Motion (SfM). Using a set of overlapping aerial photographs, the SfM workflow can generate accurate topographic surveys, and promises to provide a fast, inexpensive, and reliable method for routine beach surveying. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are often successfully employed for SfM surveys but can be limited by poor weather ad government regulations, which can make flying difficult or impossible. To circumvent these limitations, a digital camera can be attached to a tall pole on a mobile platform to obtain aerial imagery, avoiding the restrictions of UAV flight. This thesis compares these two techniques of image acquisition for routine beach monitoring. Three surveys were conducted at monthly intervals on a beach on the central South Carolina coast, using both UAV and pole photogrammetry. While both methods use the same software and photogrammetric workflow, the UAV produced better results with far fewer processing artifacts compared to pole photogrammetry.



Photogrammetry, Coastal erosion, UAVs, Land change monitoring