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Research Project: Enhancing Production and Ecosystem Services of Horticultural and Agricultural Systems in the Southeastern United States

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Title: Measuring high levels of total suspended solids and turbidity using small unoccupied aerial systems (sUAS) multispectral imagery

Author
item PRIOR, ELIZABETH - Virginia Tech
item O'DONNELL, FRANCES - Auburn University
item BRODBECK, CHRISTIAN - Auburn University
item DONALD, WESLEY - Auburn University
item Runion, George
item SHEPHERD, STEPHANIE - Auburn University

Submitted to: Drones
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/4/2020
Publication Date: 9/8/2020
Citation: Prior, E.M., O'Donnell, F.C., Brodbeck, C., Donald, W.N., Runion, G.B., Shepherd, S.L. 2020. Measuring high levels of total suspended solids and turbidity using small unoccupied aerial systems (sUAS) multispectral imagery. Drones. 4(54). https://doi.org/10.3390/drones4030054.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/drones4030054

Interpretive Summary: Land development can lead to soil erosion after rain events. Sediment basins are used to allow soil to settle before discharging stormwater to waterways. Due to ease of use and ability to carry sensors/cameras, unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are a versatile tool for collecting UAS imagery to measure turbidity and total suspended solids (TSS). Imagery and water samples were collected from an experimental sediment basin mimicking a local 2-year, 24-h storm event with a 30-min flow rate. This study showed that sUAS multispectral imagery and linear regression modeling can determine elevated levels of TSS and turbidity with high accuracy in a sediment basin.

Technical Abstract: Due to land development, high concentrations of suspended sediment are produced from erosion after rain events. Sediment basins are commonly used for the settlement of suspended sediments before discharge. Stormwater regulations may require frequent sampling and monitoring of these basins, both of which are time and labor intensive. Potential remedies are small, unoccupied aerial systems (sUAS). The goal of this study was to demonstrate whether sUAS multispectral imagery could measure high levels of total suspended solids (TSS) and turbidity in a sediment basin. The sediment basin at the Auburn University Erosion and Sediment Control Testing Facility was used to simulate a local 2-year, 24-h storm event with a 30-min flow rate. Water samples were collected at three depths in two locations every 15 min for six hours with corresponding sUAS multispectral imagery. Multispectral pixel values were related to TSS and turbidity in separate models using multiple linear regressions. TSS and turbidity regression models had coefficients of determination (r2) values of 0.926 and 0.851, respectively. When water column measurements were averaged, the r2 values increased to 0.965 and 0.929, respectively. The results indicated that sUAS multispectral imagery is a viable option for monitoring and assessing sediment basins during high-concentration events.