Estimating Stream Surface Flow Velocities from Video Clips

Monday, 15 December 2014
Tristan Brauchli, Steven V Weijs, Zichong Chen and Hendrik Huwald, EPFL Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
Measuring surface flow velocities in streams can provide important information on discharge. This information is independent of water level, the most commonly used proxy for discharge and therefore has significant potential to reduce uncertainties. Advances in cheap and commonly used imaging devices (e.g. smartphone cameras) and image processing techniques offer new opportunities to get velocity information. Short video clips of streams can be used in combination with optical flow algorithms to get proxies for stream surface velocities. Here some initial results are presented and the main challenges are discussed, especially in view of using these techniques in a citizen science context (specifically the “WeSenseIt” project, a citizen observatory of water), where we try to minimize the need for site preparation and additional equipment needed to take measurements.