DOI: 10.3390/rs15245787 ISSN: 2072-4292

A Feasibility Study of Thermal Infrared Imaging for Monitoring Natural Terrain—A Case Study in Hong Kong

Lydia Sin-Yau Chiu, Wallace Wai-Lok Lai, Sónia Santos-Assunção, Sahib Singh Sandhu, Janet Fung-Chu Sham, Nelson Fat-Sang Chan, Jeffrey Chun-Fai Wong, Wai-Kin Leung
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences

The use of infrared thermography (IRT) technique combining other remoting sensing techniques such as photogrammetry and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms to perform geotechnical studies has been attempted by several previous researchers and encouraging results were obtained. However, studies using time-lapse IRT survey via a UAV equipped with a thermal camera are limited. Given the unique setting of Hong Kong, which has a high population living in largely hilly terrain with little natural flat land, steep man-made slopes and natural hillsides have caused significant geotechnical problems which pose hazards to life and facilities. This paper presents the adoption of a time-lapse IRT survey using a UAV in such challenging geotechnical conditions. Snapshot and time-lapse IRT studies of a selected site in Hong Kong, where landslides had occurred were carried out, and visual inspection, photogrammetry, and IRT techniques were also conducted. 3D terrain models of the selected sites were created by using data collected from the photogrammetry and single (snapshot) and continuous monitoring (time-lapse) infrared imaging methods applied in this study. The results have successfully identified various thermal infrared signatures attributed to the existence of moisture patches, seepage, cracks/discontinuities, vegetation, and man-made structures. Open cracks/discontinuities, moisture, vegetation, and rock surfaces with staining can be identified in snapshot thermal image, while the gradient of temperature decay plotted in ln(T) vs. ln(t) enables quantifiable identifications of the above materials via time-lapse thermography and analysis.

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