The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XLVIII-2-2024
11 Jun 2024
 | 11 Jun 2024

High-detail and low-cost underwater inspection of large-scale hydropower dams

Michael Grömer, Erica Nocerino, Alessio Calantropio, Fabio Menna, Ansgar Dreier, Lukas Winiwarter, and Gottfried Mandlburger

Keywords: Underwater Infrastructure Inspection, Inland Water, Low-Cost Sensors, Close Range Photogrammetry, Remotely Operated Vehicle

Abstract. The article presents a practical method that combines low-cost camera systems with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to accomplish a comprehensive but economically feasible underwater survey of large hydropower infrastructures. Typically, inspecting reservoirs entails draining them off to allow for visual inspections, which are time-intensive, pose risks to operators' safety and are associated with generation losses. In this regard, ROVs are a much safer and more efficient alternative to traditional methods. The study was conducted at the Pack reservoir in Austria, where a reference framework was set up using terrestrial laser scanning and checkerboard markings for the above-water components. A ROV equipped with a GoPro camera and lighting system for the underwater recordings has been employed. Via a close-range photogrammetric approach, it was possible to generate 3D point clouds of the submerged infrastructure with a survey-grade accuracy level. Various strategies were explored to perform bundle block adjustment (BBA), among these were strategies where ground control points (GCPs) were used, strategies without the use of GCPs but pre-calibrated initial camera parameters and strategies with a combination of using both GCPs and pre-calibrated camera parameters in the BBA. The deployment of an inspection technique using low-cost sensors that can generate highly detailed three-dimensional models of submerged infrastructure areas is presented and discussed, allowing easy detection and localization for maintenance inspection, all while being cost-effective. The paper strengthens the suggestion of best practices that optimize camera settings, considering the effect of electronic image stabilization, suggesting its avoidance, and using advanced calibration methods.