Experimental flights using a small unmanned aircraft system for mapping emergent sandbars

Great Plains Research
By: , and 



The US Geological Survey and Parallel Inc. conducted experimental flights with the Tarantula Hawk (T-Hawk) unmanned aircraft system (UAS ) at the Dyer and Cottonwood Ranch properties located along reaches of the Platte River near Overton, Nebraska, in July 2013. We equipped the T-Hawk UAS platform with a consumer-grade digital camera to collect imagery of emergent sandbars in the reaches and used photogrammetric software and surveyed control points to generate orthophotographs and digital elevation models (DEMS ) of the reaches. To optimize the image alignment process, we retained and/or eliminated tie points based on their relative errors and spatial resolution, whereby minimizing the total error in the project. Additionally, we collected seven transects that traversed emergent sandbars concurrently with global positioning system location data to evaluate the accuracy of the UAS survey methodology. The root mean square errors for the elevation of emergent points along each transect across the DEMS ranged from 0.04 to 0.12 m. If adequate survey control is established, a UAS combined with photogrammetry software shows promise for accurate monitoring of emergent sandbar morphology and river management activities in short (1–2 km) river reaches.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Experimental flights using a small unmanned aircraft system for mapping emergent sandbars
Series title Great Plains Research
DOI 10.1353/gpr.2015.0018
Volume 25
Issue 1
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher University of Nebraska--Lincoln. Center for Great Plains Studies
Publisher location Lincoln, NE
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Central Branch
Description 14 p.
First page 39
Last page 52
Country United States
State Nebraska
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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