COMPARING ICESAT/GLAS BASED ELEVATION HEIGHTS WITH PHOTOGRAMMETRIC TERRAIN HEIGHTS FROM UAV-IMAGERY ON THE EAST TIBETAN PLATEAU
Keywords: UAV, ICESat, GLAS, SRTM90, photogrammetric terrain height, DEM, high altitude
Abstract. Digital elevation models (DEMs) and height measurements are broadly used in environmental studies. Two common elevation sources are the Ice Cloud and land elevation Satellite (ICESat), which acquired laser range measurements with the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) across the globe and elevation data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). Current developments of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) provide the opportunity to collect aerial images of remote areas at a high spatial resolution. These can be further processed to digital surface models by stereophotogrammetry and provide a reliable data source to evaluate coarse scale Digital Elevation Models (DEMs).
This study compares ICESat/GLAS and SRTM90 elevation data against photogrammetric terrain heights within GLAS footprints on high altitudes on the East Tibetan Plateau. Without vegetation-bias, we were able to examine height differences under different topographic conditions and of different acquisition dates. Several resampling techniques were applied to SRTM90 data and averaged height within each footprint was calculated. ICESat/GLAS heights (n = 148) are most similar to UAV data based elevations with an averaged difference of −0.8m ±3.1m. Results furthermore indicate the validity of ICESat/GLAS heights, which are usually removed from analyses by applying different quality flags. Smallest difference of SRTM90 to UAV based heights could be observed by a natural neighbour resampling technique (averaged 3.6m ±14m), whereat other techniques achieved quite similar results. It can be confirmed that within a range of 3,800–4,200m above mean sea level the ICESat/GLAS heights are a precise source to determine elevation at footprint geolocation.