Monitoring Coastal Processes at Local and Regional Geographic Scales with UAS

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Michael J Starek1, David Bridges1, Dan Prouty2,3, Jacob Berryhill1, Deidre Williams1,2 and Gary Jeffress1,2, (1)Texas A & M University Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, TX, United States, (2)Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science, Corpus Christi, United States, (3)National Geodetic Survey, Silver Spring, MD, United States
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) provide a powerful tool for coastal mapping due to attractive features such as low cost data acquisition, flexibility in data capture and resolution, rapid response, and autonomous flight. We investigate two different scales of UAS platforms for monitoring coastal processes along the central Texas Gulf coast.

Firstly, the eBee is a small-scale UAS weighing ~0.7 kg designed for localized mapping. The imaging payload consists of a hand held RGB digital camera and NIR digital camera, both with 16.1 megapixel resolutions. The system can map up to 10 square kilometers on a single flight and is capable of acquiring imagery down to 1.5 cm ground sample distance. The eBee is configured with a GPS receiver, altitude sensor, gyroscope and a radio transmitter enabling autonomous flight. The system has a certificate of authorization (COA) from the FAA to fly over the Ward Island campus of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC). The campus has an engineered beach, called University Beach, located along Corpus Christi Bay. A set of groins and detached breakwaters were built in an effort to protect the beach from erosive wave action. The eBee is being applied to periodically survey the beach (Figure 1A). Through Structure from Motion (SfM) techniques, eBee-derived image sequences are post-processed to extract 3D topography and measure volumetric change. Additionally, when water clarity suffices, this approach enables the extraction of shallow-water bathymetry. Results on the utilization of the eBee to monitor beach morphodynamics will be presented including a comparison of derived estimates to RTK GPS and airborne lidar.

Secondly, the RS-16 UAS has a 4 m wingspan and 11 kg sensor payload. The system is remotely piloted and has a flight endurance of 12 to 16 hours making it suitable for regional scale coastal mapping. The imaging payload consists of a multispectral sensor suite measuring in the visible, thermal IR, and ultraviolet ranges of the spectrum. The RS-16 is being used to conduct surveys along the shoreline of North Padre Island, which is a high wind energy and wave-dominated barrier island system (Figure 1B). Results on the utilization of the RS-16 to study alongshore variability in shoreline dynamics and surf zone processes, such as wave runup, will be presented.