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Discharge estimation using video recordings from small unoccupied aircraft systems

September 15, 2023
Measurement of river discharge during flooding events has especially been a challenging and dangerous task in the southwestern US, where flows can be flashy, laden with sediment, and at high velocity. Small unoccupied aircraft systems (sUAS) can be deployed to access unsafe field sites and capture imagery for measuring surface flow velocity and discharge. This paper compares flow discharge estimation at eight field sites—located at or near USGS gauging stations—using time-averaged surface velocities and the turbulence dissipation rate (TDR) derived from large-scale particle image velocimetry (LSPIV) analysis of sUAS videos with conventional measurement techniques conducted by professional USGS hydrographers. Sites characteristics include both natural and engineered channels. The conventional measured discharges were treated as the reference discharges for evaluating the accuracy of the LSPIV discharge estimates. This study evaluated four approaches to estimate the depth-averaged or cross-sectional averaged velocity: constant-velocity index, logarithmic law, power-law, and the entropy method. Results showed the discharges can be accurately calculated by using any of these methods, and that choice of method depended on width to depth ratios.
Publication Year 2023
Title Discharge estimation using video recordings from small unoccupied aircraft systems
DOI 10.1061/JHEND8.HYENG-13591
Authors Jennifer G Duan, Frank Engel, Ammon F Cadogan
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Hydraulic Engineering
Index ID 70248733
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization WMA - Observing Systems Division