GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 173-4
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


GOMEZ, Francisco, Geological Sciences, Univ of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211-1380 and POLUN, Sean G., Department of Geological Sciences, University of Missouri, 101 Geology Building, Columbia, MO 65211

Low-altitude aerial surveying greatly improves the ease and efficiency of measuring landforms for quantitative geomorphic and neotectonic analyses. High-resolution, close-range photogrammetry produces dense, 3-dimensional point clouds that facilitate the construction of digital surface models, as well as a potential means of classifying ground targets using spatial structure. This study presents results from recent applications of UAS-based photogrammetry, including high resolution surface morphometry of a lava flow, repeat-pass applications to mass movements, and fault scarp degradation modeling. Depending upon the desired photographic resolution and the platform/payload flown, aerial photos are typically acquired at altitudes of 40 - 100 meters above the ground surface. In all cases, high-precision ground control points are key for accurate (and repeatable) orientation - relying on low-precision GPS coordinates (whether on the ground or geotags in the aerial photos) typically results in substantial rotations (tilt) of the reference frame. Using common ground control points between repeat surveys results in matching point clouds with RMS residuals better than 10 cm. As an example for high-resolution morphometry, this study shows the application of a photogrammetric the point cloud for assessing lava flow surface roughness using multi-scale measurements of point cloud dimensionality. For a landslide study, the point cloud provides a basis for assessing possible displacements. In addition, the high resolution orthophotos facilitate mapping of fractures and their growth. For neotectonic applications, we compare fault scarp modeling results from UAV-derived point clouds versus field-based surveys (kinematic GPS and electronic distance measurements). In summary, there is a wide ranging toolbox of low-altitude aerial platforms becoming available for field geoscientists. In many instances, these tools will present convenience and reduced cost compared with the effort and expense to contract acquisitions of aerial imagery.