Structure from motion (SFM) photogrammetry

Topographic data measurement is a fundamental aspect of many geomorphic research applications, particularly those including landform monitoring and investigation of changes in topography. However, most surveying techniques require relatively expensive technologies or specialized user supervision. Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetric technology lightens both these constraints by allowing the use of consumer grade digital cameras and highly automated data processing, which can be free to use. SfM photogrammetry therefore offers the possibility of fast, automated and low-cost acquisition of 3-D data, which has inevitably created great interest amongst the geomorphological community. In this contribution, the basic concepts of SfM photogrammetry are presented, whilst recognising its heritage. A few examples are employed to illustrate the potential of SfM applications for geomorphological research. In particular, SfM photogrammetry offers to geomorphologists a tool for high-resolution characterisation of 3-D forms at a range of scales and for change detection purposes. The high level of automation of SfM data processing creates both opportunities and threats, particularly because user control tends to focus upon the final product visually rather than upon inherent data quality. Accordingly, this contribution seeks to guide potential new users in successfully applying SfM for a range of geomorphic studies.