Airborne Remote Sensing of River Flow and Morphology

Friday, 19 December 2014: 10:35 AM
Steven P Anderson, Seth Zuckerman, John McLean and Ryan Redford, Arete Associates, Arlington, VA, United States
River morphology, surface slope and flow are some of the fundamental measurements required for surface water monitoring and hydrodynamic research. This paper describes a method of combining bathymetric lidar with space-time processing of mid-wave infrared (MWIR) imagery to simultaneously measure bathymetry, currents and surface slope from an airborne platform. In May 2014, Areté installed a Pushbroom Imaging Lidar for Littoral Surveillance (PILLS) and a FLIR SC8000 MWIR imaging system sampling at 2 Hz in a small twin-engine aircraft. Data was collected over the lower Colorado River between Picacho Park and Parker. PILLS is a compact bathymetric lidar based on streak-tube sensor technology. It provides channel and bank topography and water surface elevation at 1 meter horizontal scales and 25 cm vertical accuracy. Surface currents are derived from the MWIR imagery by tracking surface features using a cross correlation algorithm. This approach enables the retrieval of currents along extended reaches at the forward speed of the aircraft with spatial resolutions down to 5 m with accuracy better than 10 cm/s. The fused airborne data captures current and depth variability on scales of meters over 10’s of kilometers collected in just a few minutes. The airborne MWIR current retrievals are combined with the bathymetric lidar data to calculate river discharge which is then compared with real-time streamflow stations. The results highlight the potential for improving our understanding of complex river environments with simultaneous collections from multiple airborne sensors.