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Exploitation of UAS to Analyze River Flooding
Proceedings of the 2019 Mississippi Water Resources Conference

Year: 2019 Authors: Moorhead R., Dyer J., van Cooten S.


Unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) have been shown to be cost-effective and efficient data collection platforms for high-resolution and/or real-time imagery. NOAA's River Forecast Centers (RFCs) have stated that some of their top priorities for UAS applications for RFC operations are rapid response images to document extent of inundation to verify flash flooding, flood inundation maps, and enabling production of flood maps for more locations. The lack of data over river reaches that are difficult to access and/or a large distance from population centers degrades overall river forecast accuracy. This is especially true if the river reaches with poor elevation data are known to exhibit complex hydraulic conditions such as backwater flow during high water events. In such cases, not only do real time data and images provide improved accuracy in river flow speed and direction, but also aid in quantifying the amount of potential storage along the river reach during flood events.

Such backwater processes are known to occur along the Yazoo River in western Mississippi, which is in the operational area of the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center (LMRFC). More specifically, the backwater areas of interest in this study are along the Yazoo River and the contributing tributaries of the Big Black and Sunflower River. The LMRFC forecasts for this area are based on river gauges near Belzoni and Yazoo City along the Yazoo River, near Bovina and Bentonia along the Big Black River, and near Anguilla and Sunflower along the Sunflower River. These points all lie in areas with minimal changes in relief. This area is of great interest and concern to NOAA, USGS, and USDA due to the frequency and severity of flooding and the associated major economic and societal impacts.

This presentation will cover our work on establishing CONOPS, the data collected, and preliminary assessments of the value of the UAS-collected data in river forecasting. The initial phase of the study is being conducted in the area around the Greenwood, Mississippi airport.

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