The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XLIV-M-3-2021
10 Aug 2021
 | 10 Aug 2021


H. A. Lassiter, B. Wilkinson, A. Gonzalez Perez, and C. Kelly

Keywords: UAS, UAV, drones, lidar, targets, accuracy

Abstract. Surveying an area with small, unoccupied aerial systems (UAS) equipped with a lidar mapping payload—absent permanent, stable, geometrical reference surfaces—demands accurate, repeatable data collection procedures. While relative error within a single UAS lidar dataset may reveal itself in strip misalignment, absolute error (particularly horizontal error) can prove more difficult to detect, casting doubt upon the quality of both individual surveys and time change analyses of multiple surveys of the area. To gain insight on the UAS lidar error budget, this study presents an analysis of multiple UAS lidar surveys over a set of accurately surveyed geometric checkpoints. Each flight’s trajectory was processed multiple times using multiple static GNSS base observations, both autonomous and set over surveyed monuments, at varying distances from the study site. Custom algorithms were used to mensurate the geometric targets detected in each UAS lidar survey's point cloud, allowing for precise comparison of both absolute horizontal and vertical accuracy of each survey against the rigorous ground survey. The results of the analysis suggest that high horizontal accuracy can be achieved under a variety of conditions, whereas vertical accuracy is sensitive to the quality of ground control. and a discussion of the results explores the ultimate goal of isolating and understanding the sources and magnitudes of error in the UAS lidar error budget.