Issues in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Data Collection of Complex Forest Environments


Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) offer users the ability to capture large amounts of imagery at unprecedented spatial resolutions due to their flexible designs, low costs, automated workflows, and minimal technical knowledge barriers. Their rapid extension into new disciplines promotes the necessity to question and understand the implications of data capture and processing parameter decisions on the respective output completeness. This research provides a culmination of quantitative insight using an eBee Plus, fixed-wing UAS for collecting robust data on complex forest environments. These analyses differentiate from measures of accuracy, which were derived from positional comparison to other data sources, to instead guide applications of comprehensive coverage. Our results demonstrated the impacts of flying height on Structure from Motion (SfM) processing completeness, discrepancies in outputs based on software package choice, and the effects caused by processing parameter settings. For flying heights of 50 m, 100 m, and 120 m above the forest canopy, key quality indicators within the software demonstrated the superior performance of the 100-m flying height. These indicators included, among others, image alignment success, the average number of tie points per image, and planimetric model ground sampling distance. We also compared the output results of two leading SfM software packages: Agisoft PhotoScan and Pix4D Mapper Pro. Agisoft PhotoScan maintained an 11.8% greater image alignment success and a 9.91% finer planimetric model resolution. Lastly, we compared the “high” and “medium” resolution processing workflows in Agisoft PhotoScan. The high-resolution processing setting achieved a 371% increase in point cloud density, with a 3.1% coarser planimetric model resolution, over a considerably longer processing time. As UAS continue to expand their sphere of influence and develop technologically, best-use practices based on aerial photogrammetry principles must remain apparent to achieve optimal results.


Natural Resources and the Environment

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Remote Sensing



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© 2018 by the authors