Structure from Motion with Multi-View Stereo photogrammetry (SfM-MVS) is increasingly used in geoscience investigations, but has not been thoroughly tested in gullied savanna systems. The aim of this study was to test the accuracy of topographic models derived from aerial (via Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, ‘UAV’) and ground-based (via handheld digital camera, ‘ground’) SfM-MVS in modelling hillslope gully systems in a dry-tropical savanna, and to assess the strengths and limitations of the approach at a hillslope scale and an individual gully scale. UAV surveys covered three separate hillslope gully systems (with areas of 0.412–0.715 km2), while ground surveys assessed individual gullies within the broader systems (with areas of 350–750 m2). SfM-MVS topographic models, including Digital Surface Models (DSM) and dense point clouds, were compared against RTK-GPS point data and a pre-existing airborne LiDAR Digital Elevation Model (DEM). Results indicate that UAV SfM-MVS can deliver topographic models with a resolution and accuracy suitable to define gully systems at a hillslope scale (e.g., approximately 0.1 m resolution with 0.4–1.2 m elevation error), while ground-based SfM-MVS is more capable of quantifying gully morphology (e.g., approximately 0.01 m resolution with 0.04–0.1 m elevation error). Despite difficulties in reconstructing vegetated surfaces, uncertainty as to optimal survey and processing designs, and high computational demands, this study has demonstrated great potential for SfM-MVS to be used as a cost-effective tool to aid in the mapping, modelling and management of hillslope gully systems at different scales, in savanna landscapes and elsewhere.
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