"Utilizing UAV Technology to Monitor and Assess a Variety of Natural and Artificial Geohazards"

Dan Claroni, Honors Thesis 2017

Abstract: In the last century, the rate of development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) has rapidly increased. Long-term development along with rapid technological advances in the past decades have resulted in drastic improvements in UAV hardware, software and application. Today, highly sophisticated UAVs are commercially available to the public. With growing interest in UAV use for recreation and research, new UAV applications are unearthed daily and seem virtually endless. These inexpensive, high-tech UAVs, allow the average person to easily discover places that they previously thought unreachable. Furthermore, modern day UAVs are compact, user friendly, and robust, making them indispensable tools for field scientists.

Due to the high precision and dangerous fieldwork that geologic research sometimes requires, incorporating UAV techniques in geologic research can be highly beneficial. In particular, utilizing UAVs in dangerous or hard-to-reach areas can remove much of the associated risk with these areas, allowing scientists to safely collect data. Sites where geohazards are forecasted or likely to occur are therefore, strong candidates for deploying UAV-based studies. Two fields that are especially appropriate for UAV use are high precision, digital mapping and remote gas sensing.

Using UAVs to produce high-resolution elevation models (DEMs), 3D models and gas composition measurements of geohazard prone sites, I illuminate how UAV technology can be utilized to minimize researchers' risk while performing geologic research. My results suggest that when used to augment traditional field photography, UAV methods can improve the overall quality and spatial coverage of generated DEMs and 3D virtual models. Furthermore, when equipped with compact and sensitive gas sensors, UAVs can also be used to measure gas composition in the atmosphere. Lastly, by using UAV photography, SfM software, and traditional surveying at an underground explosion site, I accurately map both large and small-scale features and accurately quantify explosion-induced deformation.

Full thesis not available.