MAPPING OF WATER SURFACE LEVELS AND SLOPES WITH SINGLE PHOTON LIDAR – A CASE STUDY AT THE RIVER RHINE
Keywords: SPL, Water surface level, Hydrology, Hydraulic modelling, Specular reflection, Volume backscattering
Abstract. Precise knowledge of water surface level heights is crucial for safe ship navigation and as basis for calibration of hydrodynamic-numerical models. While Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) is a well established technique for topographic mapping, ALS-based water surface mapping using conventional infrared lasers suffers from the high degree of specular reflection which leads to data voids for off-nadir angles beyond 5–7 degrees. The advent of single photon sensitive ALS systems using green laser sources presents the prospect of large-area, high-resolution water surface mapping due to the high receiver sensitivity and measurement rate of such systems. Building on previous studies on subject matters, we present the results of a pilot project initiated and conducted by the German Federal Institute of Hydrology (BfG, Koblenz) at the Rhine River. Three specific test sites with varying water surface and flow velocity properties were captured on October 30th and 31th, 2019 with the Leica SPL100 from flying altitudes of 3000 m, 2500 m, 1600 m, and 800 m, respectively. As anticipated, the water surface laser pulse density was high and exhibited 20–145 points/m2 depending on flying altitude. After quality control, strip adjustment, and point cloud analysis, three water surface classification methods were implemented based on: (i) height quantiles, (ii) point cloud segmentation, and (iii) inverse DTM filtering. All approaches featured relative and absolute water level height accuracies better than 10 cm. We conclude that Single Photon LiDAR based high resolution mapping of water surface levels and tilts is feasible when employing application specific data acquisition parameters, i.e., off-nadir angle ≤10° and flying altitude ≤3000 m.