This investigation evaluates the performance of digital terrain models (DTMs) generated in different vertical datums by aerial LiDAR and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) photogrammetry techniques, for the determination and validation of local geoid models. Many engineering projects require the point heights referring to a physical surface, i.e., geoid, rather than an ellipsoid. When a high-accuracy local geoid model is available in the study area, the physical heights are practically obtained with the transformation of global navigation satellite system (GNSS) ellipsoidal heights of the points. Besides the commonly used geodetic methods, this study introduces a novel approach for the determination and validation of the local geoid surface models using photogrammetry. The numeric tests were carried out in the Bergama region, in the west of Turkey. Using direct georeferenced airborne LiDAR and indirect georeferenced UAV photogrammetry-derived point clouds, DTMs were generated in ellipsoidal and geoidal vertical datums, respectively. After this, the local geoid models were calculated as differences between the generated DTMs. Generated local geoid models in the grid and pointwise formats were tested and compared with the regional gravimetric geoid model (TG03) and a high-resolution global geoid model (EIGEN6C4), respectively. In conclusion, the applied approach provided sufficient performance for modeling and validating the geoid heights with centimeter-level accuracy.
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