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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2019-27
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2019-27
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: short communication 28 May 2019

Submitted as: short communication | 28 May 2019

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

Short Communication: A simple workflow for robust low-cost UAV-derived change detection without ground control points

Kristen L. Cook and Michael Dietze Kristen L. Cook and Michael Dietze
  • GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Telegrafenberg, Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. High quality 3D point clouds generated from repeat camera-equipped unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) surveys are increasingly being used to investigate landscape changes and geomorphic processes. Point cloud quality can be expressed as accuracy in a comparative (i.e., from survey to survey) and absolute (between survey and an external reference system) sense. Here we present a simple workflow for calculating pairs or sets of point clouds with a high comparative accuracy, without the need for ground control points or a dGPS equipped UAV. We demonstrate the efficacy of the new approach using a consumer-grade UAV in two contrasting landscapes: the coastal cliffs on the Island of Rügen, Germany, and the tectonically active Daan River gorge in Taiwan. Compared to a standard approach using ground control points, our workflow results in a nearly identical distribution of measured changes. Compared to a standard approach without ground control, our workflow reduces the level of change detection from several meters to 10–15 cm. This approach enables robust change detection using UAVs in settings where ground control is not possible.

Kristen L. Cook and Michael Dietze
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
Kristen L. Cook and Michael Dietze
Kristen L. Cook and Michael Dietze
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Latest update: 21 Aug 2019
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Short summary
UAVs have become popular tools for detecting topographic changes. Traditionally, detecting small amounts of change between two UAV surveys requires each survey to be highly accurate. We take an alternative approach and present a simple processing workflow that produces survey pairs or sets that are highly consistent with each other, even when the overall accuracy is relatively low. This greatly increases our ability to detect changes in settings where ground control is not possible.
UAVs have become popular tools for detecting topographic changes. Traditionally, detecting small...
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