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Open AccessArticle

UAV Imaging of a Martian Brine Analogue Environment in a Fluvio-Aeolian Setting

Division of Space Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Luleå University of Technology, 97187 Luleå, Sweden
Instituto Andaluz de Ciencias de la Tierra (CSIC-UGR), Armilla, 18100 Granada, Spain
The Pheasant Memorial Laboratory for Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry, Institute for Planetary Materials, Okayama University at Misasa, Tottori 682-0193, Japan
Centro de Astrobiología (INTA-CSIC), Torrejón de Ardoz, 28850 Madrid, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(18), 2104;
Received: 9 July 2019 / Revised: 31 August 2019 / Accepted: 6 September 2019 / Published: 9 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing in Support of Aeolian Research)
Understanding extraterrestrial environments and landforms through remote sensing and terrestrial analogy has gained momentum in recent years due to advances in remote sensing platforms, sensors, and computing efficiency. The seasonal brines of the largest salt plateau on Earth in Salar de Uyuni (Bolivian Altiplano) have been inadequately studied for their localized hydrodynamics and the regolith volume transport across the freshwater-brine mixing zones. These brines have recently been projected as a new analogue site for the proposed Martian brines, such as recurring slope lineae (RSL) and slope streaks. The Martian brines have been postulated to be the result of ongoing deliquescence-based salt-hydrology processes on contemporary Mars, similar to the studied Salar de Uyuni brines. As part of a field-site campaign during the cold and dry season in the latter half of August 2017, we deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at two sites of the Salar de Uyuni to perform detailed terrain mapping and geomorphometry. We generated high-resolution (2 cm/pixel) photogrammetric digital elevation models (DEMs) for observing and quantifying short-term terrain changes within the brines and their surroundings. The achieved co-registration for the temporal DEMs was considerably high, from which precise inferences regarding the terrain dynamics were derived. The observed average rate of bottom surface elevation change for brines was ~1.02 mm/day, with localized signs of erosion and deposition. Additionally, we observed short-term changes in the adjacent geomorphology and salt cracks. We conclude that the transferred regolith volume via such brines can be extremely low, well within the resolution limits of the remote sensors that are currently orbiting Mars, thereby making it difficult to resolve the topographic relief and terrain perturbations that are produced by such flows on Mars. Thus, the absence of observable erosion and deposition features within or around most of the proposed Martian RSL and slope streaks cannot be used to dismiss the possibility of fluidized flow within these features. View Full-Text
Keywords: unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV); photogrammetry; salt flat; geomorphometry; analogue research unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV); photogrammetry; salt flat; geomorphometry; analogue research
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MDPI and ACS Style

Bhardwaj, A.; Sam, L.; Martín-Torres, F.J.; Zorzano, M.-P.; Ramírez Luque, J.A. UAV Imaging of a Martian Brine Analogue Environment in a Fluvio-Aeolian Setting. Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 2104.

AMA Style

Bhardwaj A, Sam L, Martín-Torres FJ, Zorzano M-P, Ramírez Luque JA. UAV Imaging of a Martian Brine Analogue Environment in a Fluvio-Aeolian Setting. Remote Sensing. 2019; 11(18):2104.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Bhardwaj, Anshuman; Sam, Lydia; Martín-Torres, F. J.; Zorzano, María-Paz; Ramírez Luque, Juan A. 2019. "UAV Imaging of a Martian Brine Analogue Environment in a Fluvio-Aeolian Setting" Remote Sens. 11, no. 18: 2104.

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