Application of Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry to river restoration

Baptiste Marteau, Damia Vericat, Chris Gibbins, Ramon J. Batalla, David R. Green

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98 Citations (Scopus)
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Structure-from-Motion (SfM) photogrammetry is now used widely to study a range of earth surface processes and landforms, and is fast becoming a core tool in fluvial geomorphology. SfM photogrammetry allows extraction of topographic information and orthophotos from aerial imagery. However, one field where it is not yet widely used is that of river restoration. The characterisation of physical habitat conditions pre- and post-restoration is critical for assessing project success, and SfM can be used easily and effectively for this purpose. In this paper we outline a workflow model for the application of SfM photogrammetry to collect topographic data, develop surface models and assess geomorphic change resulting from river restoration actions. We illustrate the application of the model to a river restoration project in the NW of England, to show how SfM techniques have been used to assess whether the project is achieving its geomorphic objectives. We outline the details of each stage of the workflow, which extend from preliminary decision-making related to the establishment of a ground control network, through fish-eye lens camera testing and calibration, to final image analysis for the creation of facies maps, the extraction of point clouds, and the development of digital elevation models (DEMs) and channel roughness maps. The workflow enabled us to confidently identify geomorphic changes occurring in the river channel over time, as well as assess spatial variation in erosion and aggradation. Critical to the assessment of change was the high number of ground control points and the application of a minimum level of detection threshold used to assess uncertainties in the topographic models. We suggest that these two things are especially important for river restoration applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503–515
Number of pages13
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number3
Early online date27 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

This research is funded by the Environment Agency and United Utilities whose support is gratefully acknowledged. Some of the methods employed in this work have been tested on the background of the results obtained in MorphSed (, a research project funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competiveness and the European Regional Development Fund Scheme (FEDER; CGL2012-36394). The second author is funded by a Ramon y Cajal Fellowship (RYC-2010-06264). Authors acknowledge the support from the Economy and Knowledge Department of the Catalan Government through the Consolidated Research Group ‘Fluvial Dynamics Research Group’ (2014 SGR 645). The authors thank Manel Llena from the University of Lleida for his help and contribution to the camera calibration experiments. We are also grateful to the three anonymous reviewers and the editors for their comments that greatly improved the manuscript.


  • Structure-from-Motion Photogrammetry
  • River Restoration
  • UAV
  • Digital Elevation Models
  • Geomorphic Change


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