Evaluating low-cost topographic surveys for computations of conveyance

H. T. Samboko, S. Schurer, H. H. G. Savenije, H. Makurira, K. Banda, H. Winsemius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Rapid modern technological advancements have led to significant improvements in river monitoring using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), photogrammetric reconstruction software, and low-cost real-time kinematic Global Navigation Satellite System (RTK GNSS) equipment. UAVs allow for the collection of dry bathymetric data in environments that are difficult to access. Low-cost RTK GNSS equipment facilitates accurate measurement of wet bathymetry when combined with subaqueous measuring tools such as acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs). Hydraulic models may be constructed from these data, which in turn can be used for various applications such as water management, forecasting, early warning and disaster preparedness by responsible water authorities, and construction of river rating curves. We hypothesise that the reconstruction of dry terrain with UAV-based photogrammetry combined with RTK GNSS equipment leads to accurate geometries particularly fit for hydraulic understanding and simulation models. This study sought to (1) compare open-source and commercial photogrammetry packages to verify if water authorities with low resource availability have the option to utilise open-source packages without significant compromise on accuracy; (2) assess the impact of variations in the number of ground control points (GCPs) and the distribution of the GCP markers on the quality of digital elevation models (DEMs), with a particular emphasis on characteristics that impact hydraulics; and (3) investigate the impact of using reconstructions based on different GCP numbers on conveyance and hydraulic slope. A novel method which makes use of a simple RTK tie line along the water edge measured using a low-cost but highly accurate GNSS is presented so as to correct the unwanted effect of lens distortion (“doming effect”) and enable the concatenation of geometric data from different sources. Furthermore, we describe how merging of the dry and wet bathymetry can be achieved through gridding based on linear interpolation. We tested our approach over a section of the Luangwa River in Zambia. Results indicate that the open-source software photogrammetry package is capable of producing results that are comparable to commercially available options. We determined that GCPs are essential for vertical accuracy, but also that an increase in the number of GCPs above a limited number of five only moderately increases the accuracy of results, provided the GCPs are well spaced in both the horizontal and vertical dimension. Furthermore, insignificant differences in hydraulic geometries among the various cross sections are observed, corroborating the fact that a limited well-spaced set of GCPs is enough to establish a hydraulically sound reconstruction. However, it appeared necessary to make an additional observation of the hydraulic slope. A slope derived merely from the UAV survey was shown to be prone to considerable errors caused by lens distortion. Combination of the photogrammetry results with the RTK GNSS tie line was shown to be essential to correct the slope and made the reconstruction suitable for hydraulic model setup.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalGeoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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