High resolution mapping of coastal habitats is invaluable for resource inventory, change detection, and inventory of aquaculture applications. However, coastal areas, especially the interior of mangroves, are often difficult to access. An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), equipped with a multispectral sensor, affords an opportunity to improve upon satellite imagery for coastal management because of the very high spatial resolution, multispectral capability, and opportunity to collect real-time observations. Despite the recent and rapid development of UAV mapping applications, few articles have quantitatively compared how much improvement there is of UAV multispectral mapping methods compared to more conventional remote sensing data such as satellite imagery. The objective of this paper is to quantitatively demonstrate the improvements of a multispectral UAV mapping technique for higher resolution images used for advanced mapping and assessing coastal land cover. We performed multispectral UAV mapping fieldwork trials over Indian River Lagoon along the central Atlantic coast of Florida. Ground Control Points (GCPs) were collected to generate a rigorous geo-referenced dataset of UAV imagery and support comparison to geo-referenced satellite and aerial imagery. Multi-spectral satellite imagery (Sentinel-2) was also acquired to map land cover for the same region. NDVI and object-oriented classification methods were used for comparison between UAV and satellite mapping capabilities. Compared with aerial images acquired from Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the UAV multi-spectral mapping method used in this study provided advanced information of the physical conditions of the study area, an improved land feature delineation, and a significantly better mapping product than satellite imagery with coarser resolution. The study demonstrates a replicable UAV multi-spectral mapping method useful for study sites that lack high quality data.
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