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Title: Using unmanned aerial vehicle photogrammetry for digital geological surveys : case study of Selmun promontory, northern of Malta
Authors: Colica, Emanuele
D’Amico, Sebastiano
Iannucci, Roberto
Martino, Salvatore
Gauci, Adam
Galone, Luciano
Galea, Pauline
Paciello, Antonella
Keywords: Drone aircraft in remote sensing
Remote sensing
Geological surveys -- Malta
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Springer
Citation: Colica, E., D’Amico, S., Iannucci, R., Martino, S., Gauci, A., Galone, L., ... Paciello, A. (2021). Using unmanned aerial vehicle photogrammetry for digital geological surveys: Case study of Selmun promontory, northern of Malta. Environmental Earth Sciences, 80(17), 551.
Abstract: In recent years, we have been witnessing the widespread use of low-cost, increasingly high-performance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, equipped with a large number of sensors capable of extracting detailed information on several scales and in an immediate manner. This study was motivated by the need to perform a geological survey in an area with difficult physical access, and to compare the results with those from conventional surveys. Here we used a Multirotor UAV equipped with a high definition RGB camera and the digital photogrammetry technique to reconstruct a three-dimensional model of the Selmun promontory, located in the northern part of the island of Malta (central Mediterranean Sea). In this area, the evident cliff retreat is linked to landslide processes involving the outcropping geological succession, characterized by the over position of stiff limestones on ductile clays. Such an instability process consists of a lateral spreading associated with toppling and fall of different-size rock blocks. Starting from the 3D model obtained from the UAV-photogrammetry, a digital geological-structural survey was performed in which we identified the spatial geometry of the fractures that characterize the area of the Selmun promontory by measuring strike, dip and dip direction of the fractures with semi-automatic digital tools. Furthermore, we were able to measure the size and volume of singularized rock masses as well as cracks, and their sizes were mapped in a GIS environment that contains a large number of digital structural measures. It is the first application of this type for the Maltese islands and the results obtained with this innovative digital methodology were then compared with those of the traditional field survey of the same area acquired during a previous campaign. This study demonstrated how the innovation of digital geological surveying lies in the possibility of mapping areas and geological features not detectable with traditional methods, mainly due to the high risk associated with the stability of the cliff or, more generally, the inaccessibility of some sites, therefore allowing the user to operate in safety and to detect in detail the most remote rocky outcrops.
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