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Sensors (Basel). 2019 Aug 13;19(16). pii: E3534. doi: 10.3390/s19163534.

Ground Control Point-Free Unmanned Aerial Vehicle-Based Photogrammetry for Volume Estimation of Stockpiles Carried on Barges.

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School of Geomatics, East China University of Technology, Nanchang 330013, China.
School of Water Resources & Environmental Engineering, East China University of Technology, Nanchang 330013, China.
National Field Observation and Research Station of Landslides in the Three Gorges Reservoir Area of Yangtze River, China Three Gorges University, Yichang 443002, China.
School of Geodesy and Geomatics, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430079, China.


In this study, an approach using ground control point-free unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-based photogrammetry is proposed to estimate the volume of stockpiles carried on barges in a dynamic environment. Compared with similar studies regarding UAVs, an indirect absolute orientation based on the geometry of the vessel is used to establish a custom-built framework that can provide a unified reference instead of prerequisite ground control points (GCPs). To ensure sufficient overlap and reduce manual intervention, the stereo images are extracted from a UAV video for aerial triangulation. The region of interest is defined to exclude the area of water in all UAV images using a simple linear iterative clustering algorithm, which segments the UAV images into superpixels and helps to improve the accuracy of image matching. Structure-from-motion is used to recover three-dimensional geometry from the overlapping images without assistance of exterior parameters obtained from the airborne global positioning system and inertial measurement unit. Then, the semi-global matching algorithm is used to generate stockpile-covered and stockpile-free surface models. These models are oriented into a custom-built framework established by the known distance, such as the length and width of the vessel, and they do not require GCPs for coordinate transformation. Lastly, the volume of a stockpile is estimated by multiplying the height difference between the stockpile-covered and stockpile-free surface models by the size of the grid that is defined using the resolution of these models. Results show that a relatively small deviation of approximately ±2% between the volume estimated by UAV photogrammetry and the volume calculated by traditional manual measurement was obtained. Therefore, the proposed approach can be considered the better solution for the volume measurement of stockpiles carried on barges in a dynamic environment because UAV-based photogrammetry not only attains superior density and spatial object accuracy but also remarkably reduces data collection time.


photogrammetry; semi-global matching (SGM); structure-from-motion (SfM); unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV); volume estimation

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