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Topographic, imagery, and raw data associated with unmanned aerial systems (UAS) flights over Black Beach, Falmouth, Massachusetts on 18 March 2016

September 20, 2017

Imagery acquired with unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and coupled with structure-from-motion (SfM) photogrammetry can produce high-resolution topographic and visual reflectance datasets that rival or exceed lidar and orthoimagery. These new techniques are particularly useful for data collection of coastal systems, which requires high temporal and spatial resolution datasets. The U.S. Geological Survey worked in collaboration with members of the Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Analytics at Black Beach, in Falmouth, Massachusetts to explore scientific research demands on UAS technology for topographic and habitat mapping applications. This project explored the application of consumer-grade UAS platforms as a cost-effective alternative to lidar and aerial/satellite imagery to support coastal studies requiring high-resolution elevation and/or aerial imagery data. A small UAS was used to capture low-altitude photographs (images and image locations) and GPS devices were used to survey reference points (GCPs and transect points). These data were processed in an SfM workflow to create an elevation point cloud, which in turn was used to derive an orthomosaic image and a digital elevation model (DEM).