Casella, Elisa, Collin, Antoine, Harris, Daniel, Ferse, Sebastian, Bejarano, Sonia, Parravicini, Valeriano, Hench, James L. and Rovere, Alessio (2017) Mapping coral reefs using consumer-grade drones and structure from motion photogrammetry techniques. Coral Reefs, 36 (1). pp. 269-275. DOI

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We propose a novel technique to measure the small-scale three-dimensional features of a shallow-water coral reef using a small drone equipped with a consumer-grade camera, a handheld GPS and structure from motion (SfM) algorithms. We used a GoPro HERO4 with a modified lens mounted on a DJI Phantom 2 drone (maximum total take-off weight <2 kg) to perform a 10 min flight and collect 306 aerial images with an overlap equal or greater than 90%. We mapped an area of 8380 m2, obtaining as output an ortho-rectified aerial photomosaic and a bathymetric digital elevation model (DEM) with a resolution of 0.78 and 1.56 cm pixel−1, respectively. Through comparison with airborne LiDAR data for the same area, we verified that the location of the ortho-rectified aerial photomosaic is accurate within ~1.4 m. The bathymetric difference between our DEM and the LiDAR dataset is −0.016 ± 0.45 m (1σ). Our results show that it is possible, in conditions of calm waters, low winds and minimal sun glint, to deploy consumer-grade drones as a relatively low-cost and rapid survey technique to produce multispectral and bathymetric data on shallow-water coral reefs. We discuss the utility of such data to monitor temporal changes in topographic complexity of reefs and associated biological processes.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: UNSPECIFIED
Research affiliation: Biogeochemistry and Geology > Geoecology & Carbonate Sedimentology
Ecology > Human Agency, Resilience and Diversity in Coral Reefs
Biogeochemistry and Geology
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.:
ISSN: 0722-4028
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2019 12:32
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2020 12:58

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