Using Small Unmanned Aerial Systems to Advance Hydrological Models in Coastal Watersheds

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 9:15 AM
Robert Moorhead1, Lee Hathcock1, John J Coffey2, Robbie E Hood3, Suzanne van Cooten4, Kevin Choate5, Hunter Rawson1 and Ashley Kosturock1, (1)Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, United States, (2)NOAA, Washington, DC, United States, (3)NOAA UAS Program, Silver Spring, MD, United States, (4)NOAA/NWS River Forecasting Center, Slidell, LA, United States, (5)Altavian, Gainesville, FL, United States
Small unmanned aerial systems (sUASs) have the potential to provide highly useful information for models of earth systems that vary over time intervals of days and for which sub-meter resolution is crucial. In particular, the state of coastal watershed plains are highly dependent on vegetation type and cover, soil type, weather, river flooding, and coastal inundation. The vegetation type and cover affect the drying potential, as well as the watershed’s resistance to flood water movement. The soil type, soil moisture, and pond depths affect the ability of the watershed to absorb river flood waters and inundation from the sea.

In this presentation we will describe a data collection campaign and model modification effort for hydrological models in a coastal watershed. The data collection campaign is obtaining data bimonthly using multiple UASs to capture the state of the watershed quicker. In particular, the vegetation cover and the extent of the water surface expression are captured at approximately a 1 inch spatial resolution over a few days with sUASs that can image 1-2 square miles per hour. The vegetation data provides a time-varying input to improve the estimation of the roughness coefficient and the dry potential from the traditionally static datasets. By correlating the high spatio-temporal resolution surface water expression with data from approximately ten river gauges, models can be improved and validated under more conditions.

The presentation will also discuss the requisite sUAS capabilities and our experience in using them.