High Resolution Mapping of Ponkar Glacier

High Resolution mapping Ponkar Glacier, Manang is the first of its kind Aerial survey of a Glacier located in Manang district using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)–popularly known as drone. NAXA had an opportunity to do this pilot project with the use of UAV in high altitude Glacier with the research team of Himalayan Cryosphere, Climate and Disaster Research Center under the Kathmandu University led by Dr. Rijan Bhakta Kayastha.

Project Title: High Resolution Mapping of Ponkar Glacier

Client :  Himalayan Cryosphere, Climate and Disaster Research Center

Project Status: Completed

 

High Resolution mapping  Ponkar Glacier, Manang is the first of its kind Aerial survey of a Glacier located in Manang district using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)–popularly known as drone. NAXA had an opportunity to do this pilot project with the use of UAV in high altitude Glacier with the research team of Himalayan Cryosphere, Climate and Disaster Research Center under the Kathmandu University led by Dr. Rijan Bhakta Kayastha.

We did an aerial Survey over the debris cover region in the lower glacier valley making use of DJI Phantom 3 Advanced Quadcopter and captured a total of 195 photos of 2.1 cm spatial resolution.The main objective of the project was to use these images in  a number of purposes in glaciological and hydro-meteorological studies of the Ponkar glacier.This project on Ponkar glacier was pilot study where the performance of a Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) UAV, a quadcopter over high altitude glaciers was tested. The images captured were processed to generate High Resolution Digital Surface Model and Orthophoto Maps of the region.

Glaciers (clean ice and debris-covered) covers an area of 60,000km2 within ten river basins and large interior basin of HKH region. They are important source of freshwater for springs and rivers. The glaciers however are depleting at alarming rate due to climate change and global warming and are causes for disasters like flood, glacier lake outburst flood (GLOF). Therefore, it is important to regularly monitor the physical changes of glaciers through glacier studies like change in surface area of the Glacier, Supra glacier pond expansion and glacial velocity. It is usually done through satellite image .The major demerit of working with satellite images is that acquiring high resolution satellite images is more expensive and most of such images are usually cloud covered thus raising complexity to the image processing work.

Nowadays, the use of UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) has increased to offer fast, easy and cost effective way to capture high resolution images over inaccessible locations in a short time. An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. Beyond the military applications of UAVs with which “drones” became most associated, numerous civil aviation uses have been developed, including high resolution surveying and mapping, coordinating humanitarian aid, cooperative environment monitoring,

 

forest fire detection, surveillance , search & rescue missions and many more.UAVs are also finding a role in the study of glaciers in the rugged and remote Himalayas.

As listed, there are in total of 3808 glaciers in Nepal which are all at risk of melting. This test Project for glacier monitoring using UAVs conducted at Ponkar glacier was  successful to some extent with few key learnings .It thus shows that that similar kind of aerial survey can also be conducted over other high altitudes glaciers in Nepal with some precautions. With a better hardware that has extended battery life to cover a large area in a single flight, better outputs with more precise results can be generated. Moreover, the use of fixed wing UAVs with proper sensors for stability against strong winds at low density air of high altitude places can be carried out to capture the images of a glacier regular interval of time. With repeated aerial survey on the glacier on a routine basis, significant information like change in glacier area, amount of melt, glacier retreat, and expansion of supra glacial lakes, ice surface velocity and many more can be obtained.

We at NAXA believe that the use of UAVs /Drones as fast, easy and cost effective means of capturing high resolution images can and should be brought into practice in the Surveying and Mapping sector of Nepal.

 

Full News:

http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2016-03-29/drone-used-to-study-glacier-in-manang.html

http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2016-03-30/ku-conducts-first-glacier-survey-with-help-of-drone.html

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/use-drones-study-glacier-nepal-uttam-pudasaini