Coastal dunes are globally-distributed dynamic ecosystems that occur at the land-sea interface. They are sensitive to disturbance both from natural forces and anthropogenic stressors, and therefore require regular monitoring to track changes in their form and function ultimately informing management decisions. Existing techniques employing satellite or airborne data lack the temporal or spatial resolution to resolve fine-scale changes in these environments, both temporally and spatially whilst fine-scale in-situ monitoring (e.g., terrestrial laser scanning) can be costly and is therefore confined to relatively small areas. The rise of proximal sensing-based Structure-from-Motion Multi-View Stereo (SfM-MVS) photogrammetric techniques for land surface surveying offers an alternative, scale-appropriate method for spatially distributed surveying of dune systems. Here we present the results of an inter- and intra-annual experiment which utilised a low-cost and highly portable kite aerial photography (KAP) and SfM-MVS workflow to track sub-decimetre spatial scale changes in dune morphology over timescales of between 3 and 12 months. We also compare KAP and drone surveys undertaken at near-coincident times of the same dune system to test the KAP reproducibility. Using a Monte Carlo based change detection approach (Multiscale Model to Model Cloud Comparison (M3C2)) which quantifies and accounts for survey uncertainty, we show that the KAP-based survey technique, whilst exhibiting higher x, y, z uncertainties than the equivalent drone methodology, is capable of delivering data describing dune system topographical change. Significant change (according to M3C2); both positive (accretion) and negative (erosion) was detected across 3, 6 and 12 months timescales with the majority of change detected below 500 mm. Significant topographic changes as small as ~20 mm were detected between surveys. We demonstrate that portable, low-cost consumer-grade KAP survey techniques, which have been employed for decades for hobbyist aerial photography, can now deliver science-grade data, and we argue that kites are well-suited to coastal survey where winds and sediment might otherwise impede surveys by other proximal sensing platforms, such as drones.
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