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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
29 Jun 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).
3D topographic monitoring of earth surface deformation using multitemporal UAV photography
François Clapuyt1, Veerle Vanacker1, Fritz Schlunegger2, and Kristof Van Oost1 1Earth and Life Institute, Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium
2Institut für Geologie, Universität Bern, Switzerland
Abstract. Accurately assessing geohazards and quantifying landslide risks in mountainous environments gain importance in the context of the on-going global warming. For an in-depth understanding of slope failure mechanisms, accurate monitoring of the mass movement topography at high spatial and temporal resolutions remains essential. The choice of the acquisition framework for high-resolution topographic reconstructions will result from the trade-off between the spatial resolution needed and the extent of the study area. Recent advances in the development of UAV-based (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) image acquisition combined with Structure-from-Motion (SfM) algorithm for 3D reconstruction makes the UAV-SfM framework a competitive alternative to other high-resolution topographic techniques.

In this study, we test the performance of the UAV-SfM framework to monitor ground surface displacements at very high spatial and temporal resolution, and apply it to the Schimbrig earthflow located in the foothills of the Central Swiss Alps. We produced distinct topographic datasets for three acquisition dates between 2013 and 2015 in order to conduct a comprehensive 3D analysis of the landslide. Therefore, we computed (1) the horizontal and (2) the 3-dimensional surface displacements, and (3) the sediment budget of the hillslope. The multitemporal UAV-SfM based topographic reconstructions allowed us to quantify rates of sediment redistribution and surface movements. Our data show that the Schimbrig earthflow is very active with mean annual horizontal displacement ranging between 6 and 9 meters. The reconstruction of the dynamic topography at very high spatial resolution reveals the internal mechanisms of the earthflow and its complex rotational structure. Although there are major changes in the internal structure of the earthflow in the 2013–2015 period, the sediment budget of the drainage basin is nearly in equilibrium. As a consequence, our data show that the time lag between sediment mobilization by landslides and enhanced sediment fluxes in the river network can be considerable.

Citation: Clapuyt, F., Vanacker, V., Schlunegger, F., and Van Oost, K.: 3D topographic monitoring of earth surface deformation using multitemporal UAV photography, Earth Surf. Dynam. Discuss.,, in review, 2017.
François Clapuyt et al.
François Clapuyt et al.
François Clapuyt et al.


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