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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-256
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-256
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 10 Dec 2018

Research article | 10 Dec 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

High accuracy UAV photogrammetry of ice sheet dynamics with no ground control

Thomas R. Chudley1, Poul Christoffersen1, Samuel H. Doyle2, Antonio Abellan3, and Neal Snooke4 Thomas R. Chudley et al.
  • 1Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  • 2Centre for Glaciology, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK
  • 3Institute of Applied Geoscience, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  • 4Department of Computer Science, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK

Abstract. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Structure from Motion with Multi-View Stereo (SfM-MVS) photogrammetry are increasingly common tools for geoscience applications, but final product accuracy can be significantly diminished in the absence of a dense and well-distributed network of ground control points (GCPs). This is problematic in inaccessible or hazardous field environments, including highly crevassed glaciers, where implementing suitable GCP networks would be logistically difficult if not impossible. To overcome this challenge, we present an alternative geolocation approach known as GNSS-supported aerial triangulation (GNSS-AT). Here, an on-board carrier-phase GNSS receiver is used to determine the location of photo acquisitions using kinematic differential carrier-phase positioning. The camera positions can be used as the geospatial input to the photogrammetry process. We describe the implementation of this method in a low-cost, custom-built UAV, and apply the method in a glaciological setting at Store Glacier in West Greenland. We validate the technique at the calving front, achieving topographic uncertainties of ±0.07m horizontally and ±0.14m vertically when flying at an altitude of ~450ma.s.l. This compares favourably with previous GCP-derived uncertainties in glacial environments, and allowed us to apply the SfM-MVS photogrammetry at an inland study site where ice flows at 2mday−1 and where stable ground control is not available. Here, we were able to produce, without the use of GCPs, the first UAV-derived velocity fields of an ice sheet interior. Given the growing use of UAVs and SfM-MVS in glaciology and the geosciences, GNSS-AT will be of interest to those wishing to use UAV photogrammetry to obtain high-precision measurements of topographic change in contexts where GCP collection is logistically constrained.

Thomas R. Chudley et al.
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Thomas R. Chudley et al.
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Short summary
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly common tools in the geosciences, but their use requires good ground control in order to make accurate georeferenced models. This is difficult in applications such as glaciology, where access to study sites can be hazardous. We show that a new technique utilising on-board GPS post-processing can match and even improve on ground control-based methods, and, as a result, can produce accurate glacier velocity fields even on an inland ice sheet.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly common tools in the geosciences, but their use...
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