Rivers' Water Level Assessment Using UAV Photogrammetry and RANSAC Method and the Analysis of Sensitivity to Uncertainty Sources

Sensors (Basel). 2022 Jul 16;22(14):5319. doi: 10.3390/s22145319.


Water-level monitoring systems are fundamental for flood warnings, disaster risk assessment and the periodical analysis of the state of reservoirs. Many advantages can be obtained by performing such investigations without the need for field measurements. In this paper, a specific method for the evaluation of the water level was developed using photogrammetry that is derived from images that were recorded by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). A dense point cloud was retrieved and the plane that better fits the river water surface was found by the use of the random sample consensus (RANSAC) method. A reference point of a known altitude within the image was then exploited in order to compute the distance between it and the fitted plane, in order to monitor the altitude of the free surface of the river. This paper further aims to perform a critical analysis of the sensitivity of these photogrammetric techniques for river water level determination, starting from the effects that are highlighted by the state of the art, such as random noise that is related to the image data quality, reflections and process parameters. In this work, the influences of the plane depth and number of iterations have been investigated, showing that in correspondence to the optimal plane depth (0.5 m) the error is not affected by the number of iterations.

Keywords: RANSAC; photogrammetry; plane extraction; point cloud; river; water level.

Grants and funding

The study that has been presented in this paper is part of the REACT project financed to Idea-Re S.r.l. by Regione Veneto (IT) POR FESR 2014-2020 Asse I Azione 1.1.4.