Monitoring of Streambank Erosion using UAS and Lidar

Streambank erosion is estimated to account for 30-80% of sediment loading into waterways. In many cases, this sediment is carrying important pollutants, such as phosphorus. Recent developments in UAS-based photogrammetry provide opportunities for rapidly and economically determining streambank erosion and deposition at variable scales.

This study aims to evaluate the effectiveness and capabilities of UAS to measure streambank erosion. An UAS and terrestrial laser scanner are used to capture fine-scale topographic data of various types of streambanks and qnatify the change over time. UVM Spatial Analysis lab contributes to the fieldwork effort of mapping with UAS in the Mad River and Winooski River watersheds in Vermont.

Surveying a stream cross-section along the Shepard Brook in Waitsfield, VT using RTK-GPS

Collecting TLS scans along the Shepard Brook in Waitsfield, Vermont

RIEGL VZ-1000 terrestrial laser scanner at streambank monitoring site along the Winooski River in Waterbury

Example of digital elevation model of a portion of the New Haven River generated from UAS-based photogrammety.

eBee UAS on take-off from project site along the Mad River in Moretown, Vermont

UAS team from the UVM Spatial Analysis Lab getting ready for first flight of the eBee UAS along the Mad River

eBee RTK UAS with RTK-GPS base station setup in the field


Hamshaw, Scott D., Tayler Engel, Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, Donna M. Rizzo, and Mandar M. Dewoolkar. 2019. “Application of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) for Monitoring Bank Erosion along River Corridors.” Geomatics, Natural Hazards and Risk.

Hamshaw, Scott D., Thomas Bryce, Donna M. Rizzo, Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, Jeff Frolik, and Mandar M. Dewoolkar. 2017. “Quantifying Streambank Movement and Topography Using Unmanned Aircraft System Photogrammetry with Comparison to Terrestrial Laser Scanning.” River Research and Applications 33 (8):1354–67.

Hamshaw, Scott D., Thomas Bryce, Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, Donna M. Rizzo, Jeff Frolik, Tayler Engel, and Mandar Dewoolkar. 2017. “Quantifying Streambank Erosion Using Unmanned Aerial Systems at the  Site-Specific and River Network Scales.” In Proceedings of the 2017 Geo-Congress, 499–508. Orlando, Florida. https://doi-org/10.1061/9780784480458.051


“Monitoring fluvial geomorphic change using unmanned aircraft system (UAS) photogrammetry and laser scanning.” March 19, 2018. Presented at the Northeast Geological Society of America Meeting, Burlington, VT. Link to Presentation.

“Using Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Photogrammetry to Monitor Bank Erosion along River Corridors.” January 8, 2018. Presented at the Lake Champlain Research Conference, Burlington, VT. Link to Presentation.


Project featured in Vermont PBS documentary Saving Our Waters

Project highlighted on Vermont WCAX Channel 3 News (August 3, 2015)


  • National Science Foundation, Graduate Research Fellowship (Grant No. DGE-0925179)
  • Vermont Water Resources & Lake Studies Center Grant
  • Robert & Patricia Switzer Foundation
  • Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) Program, Vermont EPSCoR (National Science Foundation Grant EPS-1101317)
  • Basin Resilience to Extreme Events (BREE) Program, Vermont EPSCoR (National Science Foundation Grant  OIA-1556770)
  • Unmanned Aircraft Systems Team, UVM Spatial Analysis Lab
  • Gund Institute of Environment
  • Richard Barrett Foundation
  • Grant OASRTRS‐14‐H‐ UVM from the US Department of Transportation
  • National Science Foundation, Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation, Grant/Award Number: CMMI‐1229045;