Devastating floods are observed every year globally from upstream mountainous to coastal regions. Increasing flood frequency and impacts affect both major rivers and their tributaries. Nonetheless, at the small-scale, the lack of distributed topographic and hydrologic data determines tributaries to be often missing in inundation modeling and mapping studies. Advances in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technologies and Digital Elevation Models (DEM)-based hydrologic modeling can address this crucial knowledge gap. UAVs provide very high resolution and accurate DEMs with low surveying cost and time, as compared to DEMs obtained by Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), satellite, or GPS field campaigns. In this work, we selected a LiDAR DEM as a benchmark for comparing the performances of a UAV and a nation-scale high-resolution DEM (TINITALY) in representing floodplain topography for flood simulations. The different DEMs were processed to provide inputs to a hydrologic-hydraulic modeling chain, including the DEM-based EBA4SUB (Event-Based Approach for Small and Ungauged Basins) hydrologic modeling framework for design hydrograph estimation in ungauged basins; the 2D hydraulic model FLO-2D for flood wave routing and hazard mapping. The results of this research provided quantitative analyses, demonstrating the consistent performances of the UAV-derived DEM in supporting affordable distributed flood extension and depth simulations.
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