Geomorphology and vegetation mapping the ice-free terrains of the Western Antarctic Peninsula region using very high resolution imagery from an UAV

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Goncalo Vieira1, Carla Mora1, Pedro Pina2, Lourenco Bandeira3 and Soon-Gyu Hong4, (1)Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal, (2)Instituto Superior Técnico, Lison, Portugal, (3)Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisbon, Portugal, (4)KOPRI Korea Polar Research Institute, Incheon, South Korea
The West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is one of the Earth’s regions with a fastest warming signal since the 1950’s with an increase of over +2.5 ºC in MAAT. Significant changes have been reported for glaciers, ice-shelves, sea-ice and also for the permafrost environment. Mapping and monitoring the ice-free areas of the WAP has been until recently limited by the available aerial photo surveys, but also by the scarce high resolution satellite imagery (e.g. QuickBird, WorldView, etc.) that are seriously constrained by the high cloudiness of the region. Recent developments in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s), which have seen significant technological advances and price reduction in the last few years, allow for its systematical use for mapping and monitoring in remote environments. In the framework of projects PERMANTAR-3 (PTDC/AAG-GLO/3908/2012 - FCT) and 3DAntártida (Ciência Viva), we complement traditional terrain surveying and mapping, satellite remote sensing (SAR and optical) and D-GPS deformation monitoring, with the application of an UAV. In this communication, we present the results from the application of a Sensefly ebee UAV in mapping the vegetation and geomorphological processes (e.g. sorted circles), as well as for digital elevation model generation in a test site in Barton Pen., King George Isl.. The UAV is a lightweight (ci. 700g) aircraft, with a 96 cm wingspan, which is portable and easy to transport. It allows for up to 40 min flight time, with application of RGB or NIR cameras. We have tested the ebee successfully with winds up to 10 m/s and obtained aerial photos with a ground resolution of 4 cm/pixel. The digital orthophotomaps, high resolution DEM’s together with field observations have allowed for deriving geomorphological maps with unprecedented detail and accuracy, providing new insight into the controls on the spatial distribution of geomorphological processes. The talk will focus on the first results from the field surveys of February and March 2014 and will also include some test data from the mountains of serra da Estrela, Portugal. New surveying is planned for the season of 2014-15 with mapping to be conducted in Livingston and King George Islands.