FREE EPRINT: Assessment of low altitude UAS flight strategy on DEM accuracy, Earth Science Informatics
Soil erosion, rapid geomorphological change and vegetation degrada-
tion are major threats to the human and natural environment. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) can be used as tools to provide detailed and accurate estimations of landscape change. The effect of flight strategy on the accuracy of UAS image data products, typically a digital surface model (DSM) and orthophoto, is unknown. Herein different flying altitudes (126-235 m) and area coverage orientations (N-S and SW-NE) are assessed in a semi-arid and medium-relief area where terraced and abandoned agricultural fields are heavily damaged by piping and gully erosion. The assessment was with respect to cell size, vertical and horizontal accuracy, absolute difference of DSM, and registration of recognizable landscape features. The results show increasing cell size (5-9 cm) with increasing altitude, and differences between elevation values (10-20 cm) for different flight directions. Vertical accuracy ranged 4-7 cm but showed no clear relationship with flight strategy, whilst horizontal error was stable (2-4 cm) for the different orthophotos. In all data sets, geomorphological features such as piping channels, rills and gullies and vegetation patches could be labeled by a technician. Finally, the datasets have been released in a public repository.