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Volume 18, issue 6 | Copyright

Special issue: The use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) in monitoring...

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 1567-1582, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 07 Jun 2018

Research article | 07 Jun 2018

Using kites for 3-D mapping of gullies at decimetre-resolution over several square kilometres: a case study on the Kamech catchment, Tunisia

Denis Feurer1, Olivier Planchon1, Mohamed Amine El Maaoui2, Abir Ben Slimane3, Mohamed Rached Boussema2, Marc Pierrot-Deseilligny4, and Damien Raclot1 Denis Feurer et al.
  • 1LISAH, Univ Montpellier, INRA, IRD, Montpellier SupAgro, Montpellier, France
  • 2El Manar University, National Engineering School of Tunis, LTSIRS, B.P 37, 1002 Tunis-Belvédère, Tunis, Tunisia
  • 3Rural Engineering Laboratory, National Research Institute of Rural Engineering, Water and Forests, INRGREF, Rue Hédi Karray El Menzah IV – B.P 10, Ariana 2080, Tunisia
  • 4Université Paris-Est, IGN/SR, LOEMI, 73 avenue de Paris, 94165 Saint-Mandé, France

Abstract. Monitoring agricultural areas threatened by soil erosion often requires decimetre topographic information over areas of several square kilometres. Airborne lidar and remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) imagery have the ability to provide repeated decimetre-resolution and -accuracy digital elevation models (DEMs) covering these extents, which is unrealistic with ground surveys. However, various factors hamper the dissemination of these technologies in a wide range of situations, including local regulations for RPAS and the cost for airborne laser systems and medium-format RPAS imagery. The goal of this study is to investigate the ability of low-tech kite aerial photography to obtain DEMs with decimetre resolution and accuracy that permit 3-D descriptions of active gullying in cultivated areas of several square kilometres. To this end, we developed and assessed a two-step workflow. First, we used both heuristic experimental approaches in field and numerical simulations to determine the conditions that make a photogrammetric flight possible and effective over several square kilometres with a kite and a consumer-grade camera. Second, we mapped and characterised the entire gully system of a test catchment in 3-D. We showed numerically and experimentally that using a thin and light line for the kite is key for a complete 3-D coverage over several square kilometres. We thus obtained a decimetre-resolution DEM covering 3.18km2 with a mean error and standard deviation of the error of +7 and 22cm respectively, hence achieving decimetre accuracy. With this data set, we showed that high-resolution topographic data permit both the detection and characterisation of an entire gully system with a high level of detail and an overall accuracy of 74% compared to an independent field survey. Kite aerial photography with simple but appropriate equipment is hence an alternative tool that has been proven to be valuable for surveying gullies with sub-metric details in a square-kilometre-scale catchment. This case study suggests that access to high-resolution topographic data on these scales can be given to the community, which may help facilitate a better understanding of gullying processes within a broader spectrum of conditions.

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Special issue
Short summary
We present a method for acquiring very-high-resolution images for 3-D mapping of gullies over kilometre-square areas using kites. Kites used in appropriate conditions can be an advantageous alternative to light unmanned aircraft when local regulations or weather conditions hamper their use. We proved that kites can acquire images, allowing for high-quality 3-D coverage of large areas. We automatically detected and mapped gullies from a decimetre kite DEM with 74 % accuracy of the length.
We present a method for acquiring very-high-resolution images for 3-D mapping of gullies over...