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Influence of Topographic Resolution and Accuracy on Hydraulic Channel Flow Simulations: Case Study of the Versilia River (Italy)

Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Via della Faggiola 3256125 Pisa, Italy
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Pisa, Via Santa Maria 5350126 Pisa, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(13), 1630;
Received: 28 May 2019 / Revised: 2 July 2019 / Accepted: 6 July 2019 / Published: 9 July 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Unmanned Aerial Systems and Digital Terrain Modeling)
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The Versilia plain, a well-known and populated tourist area in northwestern Tuscany, is historically subject to floods. The last hydrogeological disaster of 1996 resulted in 13 deaths and in loss worth hundreds of millions of euros. A valid management of the hydraulic and flooding risks of this territory is therefore mandatory. A 7.5 km-long stretch of the Versilia River was simulated in one-dimension using river cross-sections with the FLO-2D Basic model. Simulations of the channel flow and of its maximum flow rate under different input conditions highlight the key role of topography: uncertainties in the topography introduce much larger errors than the uncertainties in roughness. The best digital elevation model (DEM) available for the area, a 1-m light detection and ranging (LiDAR) DEM dating back to 2008–2010, does not reveal all the hydraulic structures (e.g., the 40 cm thick embankment walls), lowering the maximum flow rate to only 150 m3/s, much lower than the expected value of 400 m3/s. In order to improve the already existing input topography, three different possibilities were considered: (1) to add the embankment walls to the LiDAR data with a targeted Differential GPS (DGPS) survey, (2) to acquire the cross section profiles necessary for simulation with a targeted DGPS survey, and (3) to achieve a very high resolution topography using structure from motion techniques (SfM) from images acquired using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The simulations based on all these options deliver maximum flow rates in agreement with estimated values. Resampling of the 10 cm cell size SfM-DSM allowed us to investigate the influence of topographic resolution on hydraulic channel flow, demonstrating that a change in the resolution from 30 to 50 cm alone introduced a 10% loss in the maximum flow rate. UAV-SfM-derived DEMs are low cost, relatively fast, very accurate, and they allow for the monitoring of the channel morphology variations in real time and to keep the hydraulic models updated, thus providing an excellent tool for managing hydraulic and flooding risks. View Full-Text
Keywords: DEM; structure from motion; unmanned aerial vehicle; FLO2D DEM; structure from motion; unmanned aerial vehicle; FLO2D

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Luppichini, M.; Favalli, M.; Isola, I.; Nannipieri, L.; Giannecchini, R.; Bini, M. Influence of Topographic Resolution and Accuracy on Hydraulic Channel Flow Simulations: Case Study of the Versilia River (Italy). Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 1630.

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