Coal production in opencast mining generates substantial waste materials, which are typically delivered to an on-site waste dump. As a large artificial loose pile, such dumps have a special multi-berm structure accompanied by some security issues due to wind and water erosion. Highly accurate digital surface models (DSMs) provide the basic information for detection and analysis of elevation change. Low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle systems (UAS) equipped with a digital camera have become a useful tool for DSM reconstruction. To achieve high-quality UAS products, consideration of the number and configuration of ground control points (GCPs) is required. Although increasing of GCPs will improve the accuracy of UAS products, the workload of placing GCPs is difficult and laborious, especially in a multi-berm structure such as a waste dump. Thus, the aim of this study is to propose an improved GCPs configuration to generate accurate DSMs of a waste dump to obtain accurate elevation information, with less time and fewer resources. The results of this study suggest that: (1) the vertical accuracy of DSMs is affected by the number of GCPs and their configuration. (2) Under a set number of GCPs, a difference of accuracy is obtained when the GCPs are located on different berms. (3) For the same number of GCPs, the type 4 (GCPs located on the 1st and 4th berms) in the study is the best configuration for higher vertical accuracy compared with other types. The principal objective of this study provides an effective GCP configuration for DSM construction of coal waste dumps with four berms, and also a reference for engineering piles using multiple berms.
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