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We apply structure from motion (SfM) photogrammetry with imagery from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to measure bank erosion processes along a mid-sized river reach. This technique offers a unique set of characteristics compared to previously used methods to monitor banks, such as high resolution and relatively fast deployment in the field. We analyse the retreat of a 1.2 km restored bank of the Meuse River which has complex vertical scarps laying on a straight reach, features that present specific challenges to the UAV-SfM application. We surveyed eight times within a year with a simple approach, combining different photograph perspectives and overlaps to identify an effective UAV flight. The accuracy of the digital surface models (DSMs) was evaluated with real-time kinematic (RTK) GPS points and airborne laser scanning of the whole reach. An oblique perspective with eight photo overlaps and 20 m of cross-sectional ground-control point distribution was sufficient to achieve the relative precision to observation distance of ∼ 1 : 1400 and 3 cm root mean square error (RMSE), complying with the required accuracy. A complementary nadiral view increased coverage behind bank toe vegetation. Sequential DSMs captured signatures of the erosion cycle such as mass failures, slump-block deposition, and bank undermining. Although UAV-SfM requires low water levels and banks without dense vegetation as many other techniques, it is a fast-in-the-field alternative to survey reach-scale riverbanks in sufficient resolution and accuracy to quantify bank retreat and identify morphological features of the bank failure and erosion processes. Improvements to the adopted approach are recommended to achieve higher accuracies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)933-953
Number of pages21
JournalEarth Surface Dynamics
Volume6
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2018

ID: 47407842