Drones as tools for monitoring beach topography changes in the Ligurian Sea (NW Mediterranean)
The aim of this study was to evaluate topographic changes along a stretch of coastline in the Municipality of Borghetto Santo Spirito (Region of Liguria, Italy, north-western Mediterranean) by means of a remotely piloted aircraft system coupled with structure from motion and multi-view stereo techniques. This sector was surveyed three times over 5 months in the fall–winter of 2013–2014 (1 November 2013, 4 December 2013, 17 March 2014) to obtain digital elevation models and orthophotos of the beach. Changes in beach topography associated with storm action and human activities were assessed in terms of gain/loss of sediments and shifting of the wet–dry boundary defining the shoreline. Between the first and second surveys, the study area was hit by two storms (10–11 November 2013 and 21–22 November 2013) with waves approaching from the E–NNE, causing a shoreline retreat which, in some sectors, reached 7 m. Between the second and third surveys, by contrast, four storms (25–27 December 2013, 5–6 January 2014, 17–18 January 2014 and 6–10 February 2014) with waves propagating from the SE produced a general advancement of the shoreline (up to ~5 m) by deposition of sediments along some parts of the beach. The data also reflect changes in beach topography due to human activity during the 2013 fall season, when private beach managers quarried ~178 m3 of sediments on the emerged beach near the shoreline to accumulate them landwards. The results show that drones can be used for regular beach monitoring activities, and that they can provide new insights into the processes related to natural and/or human-related topographic beach changes.
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