Reconstructing 3D coastal cliffs from airborne oblique photographs without ground control points
Coastal cliff collapse hazard assessment requires measuring cliff face topography at regular intervals. Terrestrial laser scanner techniques have proven useful so far but are expensive to use either through purchasing the equipment or through survey subcontracting. In addition, terrestrial laser surveys take time which is sometimes incompatible with the time during with the beach is accessible at low-tide. By comparison, structure from motion techniques (SFM) are much less costly to implement, and if airborne, acquisition of several kilometers of coastline can be done in a matter of minutes. In this paper, the potential of GPS-tagged oblique airborne photographs and SFM techniques is examined to reconstruct chalk cliff dense 3D point clouds without Ground Control Points (GCP). The focus is put on comparing the relative 3D point of views reconstructed by Visual SFM with their synchronous Solmeta Geotagger Pro2 GPS locations using robust estimators. With a set of 568 oblique photos, shot from the open door of an airplane with a triplet of synchronized Nikon D7000, GPS and SFM-determined view point coordinates converge to X: ±31.5 m; Y: ±39.7 m; Z: ±13.0 m (LE66). Uncertainty in GPS position affects the model scale, angular attitude of the reference frame (the shoreline ends up tilted by 2°) and absolute positioning. Ground Control Points cannot be avoided to orient such models.