Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)-based remote sensing techniques have demonstrated great potential for monitoring rapid shoreline changes. With image-based approaches utilizing Structure from Motion (SfM), high-resolution Digital Surface Models (DSM), and orthophotos can be generated efficiently using UAV imagery. However, image-based mapping yields relatively poor results in low textured areas as compared to those from LiDAR. This study demonstrates the applicability of UAV LiDAR for mapping coastal environments. A custom-built UAV-based mobile mapping system is used to simultaneously collect LiDAR and imagery data. The quality of LiDAR, as well as image-based point clouds, are investigated and compared over different geomorphic environments in terms of their point density, relative and absolute accuracy, and area coverage. The results suggest that both UAV LiDAR and image-based techniques provide high-resolution and high-quality topographic data, and the point clouds generated by both techniques are compatible within a 5 to 10 cm range. UAV LiDAR has a clear advantage in terms of large and uniform ground coverage over different geomorphic environments, higher point density, and ability to penetrate through vegetation to capture points below the canopy. Furthermore, UAV LiDAR-based data acquisitions are assessed for their applicability in monitoring shoreline changes over two actively eroding sandy beaches along southern Lake Michigan, Dune Acres, and Beverly Shores, through repeated field surveys. The results indicate a considerable volume loss and ridge point retreat over an extended period of one year (May 2018 to May 2019) as well as a short storm-induced period of one month (November 2018 to December 2018). The foredune ridge recession ranges from 0 m to 9 m. The average volume loss at Dune Acres is 18.2 cubic meters per meter and 12.2 cubic meters per meter within the one-year period and storm-induced period, respectively, highlighting the importance of episodic events in coastline changes. The average volume loss at Beverly Shores is 2.8 cubic meters per meter and 2.6 cubic meters per meter within the survey period and storm-induced period, respectively.
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