Helicopter-based Photography for use in SfM over the West Greenland Ablation Zone

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Thomas L Mote1, Marco Tedesco2, Ike Astuti1, David Cotten1, Thomas Jordan1 and Asa K Rennermalm3, (1)University of Georgia, Athens, GA, United States, (2)CUNY City College of New York, New York, NY, United States, (3)Rutgers University New Brunswick, New Brunswick, NJ, United States
Results of low-elevation high-resolution aerial photography from a helicopter are reported for a supraglacial watershed in West Greenland. Data were collected at the end of July 2015 over a supraglacial watershed terminating in the Kangerlussuaq region of Greenland and following the Utrecht University K-Transect of meteorological stations. The aerial photography reported here were complementary observations used to support hyperspectral measurements of albedo, discussed in the Greenland Ice sheet hydrology session of this AGU Fall meeting. A compact digital camera was installed inside a pod mounted on the side of the helicopter together with gyroscopes and accelerometers that were used to estimate the relative orientation. Continuous video was collected on 19 and 21 July flights, and frames extracted from the videos are used to create a series of aerial photos. Individual geo-located aerial photos were also taken on a 24 July flight. We demonstrate that by maintaining a constant flight elevation and a near constant ground speed, a helicopter with a mounted camera can produce 3-D structure of the ablation zone of the ice sheet at unprecedented spatial resolution of the order of 5 – 10 cm. By setting the intervalometer on the camera to 2 seconds, the images obtained provide sufficient overlap (>60%) for digital image alignment, even at a flight elevation of ~170m. As a result, very accurate point matching between photographs can be achieved and an extremely dense RGB encoded point cloud can be extracted. Overlapping images provide a series of stereopairs that can be used to create point cloud data consisting of 3 position and 3 color variables, X, Y, Z, R, G, and B. This point cloud is then used to create orthophotos or large scale digital elevation models, thus accurately displaying ice structure. The geo-referenced images provide a ground spatial resolution of approximately 6 cm, permitting analysis of detailed features, such as cryoconite holes, evolving small order streams, and cracks from hydrofracturing.