Increasing LSPIV performances by exploiting the seeding distribution index

Image-based approaches for surface velocity estimations are becoming increasingly popular because of the increasing need for low-cost river flow monitoring methods. In this context, seeding characteristics and dynamics along the video footage represent one of the key variables influencing image velocimetry results. Recent studies highlight the need to identify parameter settings based on local flow conditions and environmental factors apriori, making the use of image velocimetry approaches hard to automatise for continuous monitoring. The seeding distribution index (SDI) – recently introduced by the authors – identifies the best frame window length of a video to analyse, reducing the computational loads and improving image velocimetry performance. In this work, we propose a method based on an average SDI time series threshold with noise filtering. This method was tested on three case studies in Italy and validated on one in UK, where a relatively high number of measurements is available. Following this method, we observed an error reduction of 20-39% with respect to the analysis of the full video. This beneficial effect appears even more evident when the optimisation is applied at sub-sector scales, in cases where SDI shows a marked variability along the cross-section. Finally, an empirical parameter t was proposed, calibrated, and validated for practical uses to define the SDI threshold. tshowed relatively stable values in the different contexts where it has been applied. Application of the seeding index to image-based velocimetry for surface flow velocity estimates is likely to enhance measurement accuracy in future studies.

Keywords: Image Velocimetry, UAS, river flow monitoring, LSPIV, seeding metrics, Seeding Distribution Index, frame footage.

How to cite: Dal Sasso, S.F., A. Pizarro, S. Pearce, I. Maddock, S. Manfreda, Increasing LSPIV performances by exploiting the seeding distribution index at different spatial scales, Journal of Hydrology, 2021. [pdf]


A comparison of tools and techniques for stabilising UAS imagery for surface flow observations

This research presents an investigation of different strategies and tools for digital image stabilisation for image velocimetry purposes. Basic aspects of image stabilisation and transformation are presented, and their applicability is discussed in terms of image velocimetry. Seven free-to-use open-source tools (six community-developed and one off-the-shelf) are described and compared according to their stabilisation accuracy, robustness in different flight and ground conditions, computational complexity, ease of use, and other capabilities. A novel approach for fast stabilisation accuracy analysis is also developed, presented, and applied to the stabilised image sequences. Based on the obtained results, some general guidelines for choosing a suitable tool for specific image velocimetry tasks have been obtained. This research also aims to provide a basis for further development or improvement of digital image stabilisation tools, as well as for the analyses of stabilisation impact on image velocimetry results.

How to cite: Ljubičić, R., D. Strelnikova, M. T. Perks, A. Eltner, S. Peña-Haro, A. Pizarro, S. F. Dal Sasso, U. Scherling, P. Vuono, and S. Manfreda, A comparison of tools and techniques for stabilising UAS imagery for surface flow observations, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 2021. [pdf]

VISION: VIdeo StabilisatION using automatic features selection

This project presents the codes and example of the use of one of the algorithms (FAST) used in the automatic feature selection part of the manuscript entitled “A comparison of tools and techniques for stabilizing UAS imagery for surface flow observations”. The “StabilisationFunction.m” is a Matlab function aiming at stabilising videos for image velocimetry analyses in rivers. It is a command-line function without GUI at the moment. An example of how to call the stabilisation function is also provided in the file “ExampleScript.m”. All the codes were written in Matlab R2020a.

CODE: https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/HBRF2

How to cite: Pizarro, A., S.F. Dal Sasso, S. Manfreda, VISION: VIdeo StabilisatION using automatic features selection, DOI 10.17605/OSF.IO/HBRF2, 2021.

Optimal spatial distribution of tracers for velocimetry applications

River monitoring is of particular interest as a society that faces increasingly complex water management issues. Emerging technologies have contributed to opening new avenues for improving our monitoring capabilities but have also generated new challenges for the harmonised use of devices and algorithms. In this context, optical-sensing techniques for stream surface flow velocities are strongly influenced by tracer characteristics such as seeding density and their spatial distribution. Therefore, a principal research goal is the identification of how these properties affect the accuracy of such methods. To this aim, numerical simulations were performed to consider different levels of tracer clustering, particle colour (in terms of greyscale intensity), seeding density, and background noise. Two widely used image-velocimetry algorithms were adopted: (i) particle-tracking velocimetry (PTV) and (ii) particle image velocimetry (PIV). A descriptor of the seeding characteristics (based on seeding density and tracer clustering) was introduced based on a newly developed metric called the Seeding Distribution Index (SDI). This index can be approximated and used in practice as SDI=ν0.1/(ρ/ρcν1), where νρ, and ρcν1 are the spatial-clustering level, the seeding density, and the reference seeding density at ν=1, respectively. A reduction in image-velocimetry errors was systematically observed for lower values of the SDI; therefore, the optimal frame window (i.e. a subset of the video image sequence) was defined as the one that minimises the SDI. In addition to numerical analyses, a field case study on the Basento river (located in southern Italy) was considered as a proof of concept of the proposed framework. Field results corroborated numerical findings, and error reductions of about 15.9 % and 16.1 % were calculated – using PTV and PIV, respectively – by employing the optimal frame window.

How to cite: Pizarro, A., S.F. Dal Sasso, M. Perks and S. Manfreda, Identifying the optimal spatial distribution of tracers for optical sensing of stream surface flow, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 24, 5173–5185, (10.5194/hess-24-5173-2020) 2020. [pdf]

Seeding metrics for error minimisation

River streamflow monitoring is currently facing a transformation due to the emerging of new innovative technologies. Fixed and mobile measuring systems are capable of quantifying surface flow velocities and discharges, relying on video acquisitions. This camera-gauging framework is sensitive to what the camera can “observe” but also to field circumstances such as challenging weather conditions, river background transparency, transiting seeding characteristics, among others. This short communication paper introduces the novel idea of optimising image velocimetry techniques selecting the most informative sequence of frames within the available video. The selection of the optimal frame window is based on two reasonable criteria: i) the maximisation of the number of frames, subject to ii) the minimisation of the recently introduced dimensionless seeding distribution index (SDI). SDI combines seeding characteristics such as seeding density and spatial clustering of tracers, which are used as a proxy to enhance the reliability of image velocimetry techniques. Two field case studies were considered as a proof-of-concept of the proposed framework, on which seeding metrics were estimated and averaged in time to select the proper application window. The selected frames were analysed using LSPIV to estimate the surface flow velocities and river discharge. Results highlighted that the proposed framework might lead to a significant error reduction. In particular, the computed discharge errors, at the optimal portion of the footage, were about 0.40% and 0.12% for each case study, respectively. These values were lower than those obtained, considering all frames available.

How to cite: Pizarro, A., S. F. Dal Sasso, S. Manfreda, Refining image‐velocimetry performances for streamflow monitoring: Seeding metrics to errors minimisation, Hydrological Processes, (doi: 10.1002/hyp.13919 ), 2020.

Towards harmonisation of image velocimetry techniques for river surface velocity observations

Since the turn of the 21st century, image-based velocimetry techniques have become an increasingly popular approach for determining open-channel flow in a range of hydrological settings across Europe and beyond. Simultaneously, a range of large-scale image velocimetry algorithms have been developed that are equipped with differing image pre-processing and analytical capabilities. Yet in operational hydrometry, these techniques are utilised by few competent authorities. Therefore, imagery collected for image velocimetry analysis (along with reference data) is required both to enable inter-comparisons between these differing approaches and to test their overall efficacy. Through benchmarking exercises, it will be possible to assess which approaches are best suited for a range of fluvial settings, and to focus future software developments. Here we collate and describe datasets acquired from seven countries across Europe and North America, consisting of videos that have been subjected to a range of pre-processing and image velocimetry analyses (Perks et al.2020https://doi.org/10.4121/uuid:014d56f7-06dd-49ad-a48c-2282ab10428e). Reference data are available for 12 of the 13 case studies presented, enabling these data to be used for reference and accuracy assessment.

How to cite: Perks, M. T., Dal Sasso, S. F., Hauet, A., Jamieson, E., Le Coz, J., Pearce, S., Peña-Haro, S., Pizarro, A., Strelnikova, D., Tauro, F., Bomhof, J., Grimaldi, S., Goulet, A., Hortobágyi, B., Jodeau, M., Käfer, S., Ljubičić, R., Maddock, I., Mayr, P., Paulus, G., Pénard, L., Sinclair, L., and Manfreda, S.: Towards harmonisation of image velocimetry techniques for river surface velocity observations, Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 12, 1545–1559, https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-12-1545-2020, 2020. [pdf]

Metrics for the Quantification of Seeding Characteristics to Enhance Image Velocimetry Performance in Rivers

River flow monitoring is essential for many hydraulic and hydrologic applications related to water resource management and flood forecasting. Currently, unmanned aerial systems (UASs) combined with image velocimetry techniques provide a significant low-cost alternative for hydraulic monitoring, allowing the estimation of river stream flows and surface flow velocities based on video acquisitions. The accuracy of these methods tends to be sensitive to several factors, such as the presence of floating materials (transiting onto the stream surface), challenging environmental conditions, and the choice of a proper experimental setting. In most real-world cases, the seeding density is not constant during the acquisition period, so it is not unusual for the patterns generated by tracers to have non-uniform distribution. As a consequence, these patterns are not easily identifiable and are thus not trackable, especially during floods. We aimed to quantify the accuracy of particle tracking velocimetry (PTV) and large-scale particle image velocimetry (LSPIV) techniques under different hydrological and seeding conditions using footage acquired by UASs. With this aim, three metrics were adopted to explore the relationship between seeding density, tracer characteristics, and their spatial distribution in image velocimetry accuracy. The results demonstrate that prior knowledge of seeding characteristics in the field can help with the use of these techniques, providing a priori evaluation of the quality of the frame sequence for post-processing.

Keywords: river monitoring; image velocimetry; LSPIV; PTV; UAS; surface flow velocity; seeding density

How to cite: Dal Sasso, S.F.; Pizarro, A.; Manfreda, S., Metrics for the Quantification of Seeding Characteristics to Enhance Image Velocimetry Performance in RiversRemote Sens. 202012, 1789. [pdf]

Spatial distribution of tracers for optical sensing of stream surface flow

River monitoring is of particular interest for our society that is facing increasing complexity in water management. Emerging technologies have contributed to opening new avenues for improving our monitoring capabilities, but also generating new challenges for the harmonised use of devices and algorithms. In this context, optical sensing techniques for stream surface flow velocities are strongly influenced by tracer characteristics such as seeding density and level of aggregation. Therefore, a requirement is the identification of how these properties affect the accuracy of such methods. To this aim, numerical simulations were performed to consider different levels of particle aggregation, particle colour (in terms of greyscale intensity), seeding density, and background noise. Two widely used image-velocimetry algorithms were adopted: i) Particle Tracking Velocimetry (PTV), and ii) Large-Scale Particle Image Velocimetry (LSPIV). A descriptor of the seeding characteristics (based on density and aggregation) was introduced based on a newly developed metric π. This value can be approximated and used in practice as π = ν0.1 / (ρ / ρ1) where νρ, and ρcν1 are the aggregation level, the seeding density, and the converging seeding density at ν = 1, respectively. A reduction of image-velocimetry errors was systematically observed by decreasing the values of π; and therefore, the optimal frame window was defined as the one that minimises π. In addition to numerical analyses, the Basento field case study (located in southern Italy) was considered as a proof-of-concept of the proposed framework. Field results corroborated numerical findings, and an error reduction of about 15.9 and 16.1 % was calculated – using PTV and PIV, respectively – by employing the optimal frame window.

Numerical simulation of clustered tracers.

How to cite: Pizarro, A., Dal Sasso, S. F., Perks, M., and Manfreda, S.: Spatial distribution of tracers for optical sensing of stream surface flow, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-188, in review, 2020. [pdf]

An Evaluation of Image Velocimetry Techniques under Low Flow Conditions and High Seeding Densities Using Unmanned Aerial Systems

Image velocimetry has proven to be a promising technique for monitoring river flows using remotely operated platforms such as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). However, the application of various image velocimetry algorithms has not been extensively assessed. Therefore, a sensitivity analysis has been conducted on five different image velocimetry algorithms including Large Scale Particle Image Velocimetry (LSPIV), Large-Scale Particle Tracking Velocimetry (LSPTV), Kanade–Lucas Tomasi Image Velocimetry (KLT-IV or KLT), Optical Tracking Velocimetry (OTV) and Surface Structure Image Velocimetry (SSIV), during low river flow conditions (average surface velocities of 0.12–0.14 m s −1 , Q60) on the River Kolubara, Central Serbia. A DJI Phantom 4 Pro UAS was used to collect two 30-second videos of the surface flow. Artificial seeding material was distributed homogeneously across the rivers surface, to enhance the conditions for image velocimetry techniques. The sensitivity analysis was performed on comparable parameters between the different algorithms, including the particle identification area parameters (such as Interrogation Area (LSPIV, LSPTV and SSIV), Block Size (KLT-IV) and Trajectory Length (OTV)) and the feature extraction rate. Results highlighted that KLT and SSIV were sensitive to changing the feature extraction rate; however, changing the particle identification area did not affect the surface velocity results significantly. OTV and LSPTV, on the other hand, highlighted that changing the particle identification area presented higher variability in the results, while changing the feature extraction rate did not affect the surface velocity outputs. LSPIV proved to be sensitive to changing both the feature extraction rate and the particle identification area. This analysis has led to the conclusions that for surface velocities of approximately 0.12 m s −1 image velocimetry techniques can provide results comparable to traditional techniques such as ADCPs. However, LSPIV, LSPTV and OTV require additional effort for calibration and selecting the appropriate parameters when compared to KLT-IV and SSIV. Despite the varying levels of sensitivity of each algorithm to changing parameters, all configuration image velocimetry algorithms provided results that were within 0.05 m s −1 of the ADCP measurements, on average.

Figure 1: Comparison of surface flow velocities obtained with different algorithms.

How to cite: Pearce, S.; Ljubičić, R.; Peña-Haro, S.; Perks, M.; Tauro, F.; Pizarro, A.; Dal Sasso, S.F.; Strelnikova, D.; Grimaldi, S.; Maddock, I.; Paulus, G.; Plavšić, J.; Prodanović, D.; Manfreda, S. An Evaluation of Image Velocimetry Techniques under Low Flow Conditions and High Seeding Densities Using Unmanned Aerial Systems. Remote Sens., 12, 232, 2020. [pdf]

New Insights Offered by UAS for River Monitoring

Traditional monitoring approaches are unlikely to provide the level of detail required to advance our understanding and description of the underlying physical processes and mechanisms for both technical and economical limitations (Manfreda and McCabe, 2019). Indeed, our ability to monitor system processes in the face of recent climate and anthropogenic changes is being increasingly compromised by the significant decline in the number of monitoring installations over the last few decades (Shiklomanov et al., 2002). The dynamic nature and inherent variability of many hydrological processes dictates a need for new monitoring technologies and approaches able to increase spatial and temporal resolution of data.

How to cite: Manfreda, S., Dal Sasso, S. F., Pizarro, A., & Tauro, F. New Insights Offered by UAS for River Monitoring. Applications of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Best Practices and Case Studies, 211, 2019.