Sea-ice topographic surveying using Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry conducted from small UAVs

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St-Amant, Martin




The heterogenous topography of sea-ice is difficult to measure, monitor and predict. Recent technological improvements have enabled the development of structure from motion (SfM) surveying using small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAVs). sUAV-SfM surveying was evaluated as a low-cost technique of obtaining sea-ice topography. Field data collection was conducted in Frobisher Bay and consisted of several sUAV-SfM surveys at the sub-kilometre- and kilometre-level spatial scale. RMSE values of 87 mm and 80 mm were obtained, respectively, for comparing the sUAV-SfM to a reference dataset and for comparing among individual sUAV-SfM surveys. The technique was successful at detecting, measuring and visualizing sea-ice features, such as pressure ridges. When compared to established techniques at similar spatial scales, sUAV-SfM was generally superior in terms of cost, simplicity, flexibility and ground resolution, but it suffered from low reliability due to accuracy issues with low-cost GPS receivers.


Physical Geography




Carleton University

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