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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 28 Jan 2019

Research article | 28 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).

Evaluating the Potential of PPK Direct Georeferencing for UAV-SfM Photogrammetry and Precise Topographic Mapping

He Zhang1, Emilien Aldana-Jague1, François Clapuyt1, Florian Wilken2, Veerle Vanacker1, and Kristof Van Oost1 He Zhang et al.
  • 1Earth and Life Institute, Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1348, Belgium
  • 2Institute for Geography, Universität Augsburg, Augsburg, 86159, Germany

Abstract. Images captured by Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and processed by Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry are increasingly used in geomorphology to obtain high resolution topography data. Conventional georeferencing using ground control points (GCPs) provides reliable positioning but the geometrical accuracy critically depends on the number and spatial layout of the GCPs. This limits the time- and cost-effectiveness. Direct georeferencing of the UAV images with differential GNSS, such as PPK (Post-Processing Kinematic), may overcome these limitations by providing accurate and directly georeferenced surveys. To investigate the positional accuracy, repeatability and reproducibility of digital surface models (DSMs) generated by a UAV-PPK-SfM workflow, we carried out multiple flight missions with different camera/UAV systems. Our analysis showed that the PPK solution provides the same accuracy (mean: ca. 0.01 m, RMSE: ca. 0.03 m) as the GCP method. Furthermore, our results indicated that camera properties (i.e., focal length, resolution, sensor quality) have an impact on the accuracy but planimetric and altimetric errors remained in the range of 0.011 to 0.024 m. By analysing the repeatability of DSM construction over a time period of a few months, our study demonstrates that a UAV-PPK-SfM workflow can provide consistent, repeatable 4D data with an accuracy of a few centimetres without the use of GCPs. An uncertainty analysis showed that the minimum level of topographical change detection was ca. ±0.04 m for a high-end DSLR camera and ca. ±0.08 m for an action camera (for a flight height of 45 m). The level of detection substantially improved when reducing the UAV flight height. This study demonstrates the repeatability, reproducibility and efficiency of a PPK-SfM workflow in the context of 4D earth surface monitoring with time-laps SfM photogrammetry. As such, it should be considered as an efficient tool to monitor geomorphic processes accurately and quickly at a very high spatial and temporal resolution.

He Zhang et al.
Interactive discussion
Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
He Zhang et al.
He Zhang et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We evaluated the performance of a drone system to reconstruct the 3D topography.We used a direct georeferencing method to make the pictures have precise coordinates, which also improve the survey efficiency. With both consumer-grade and professional-grade camera/drone setups, we obtained centimetric accuracy, which provides a flexible application in topography remote sensing using drone.
We evaluated the performance of a drone system to reconstruct the 3D topography.We used a direct...