Remote measuring system for tracking storm impacts

LiDAR sensors support study of storm impacts along coastal North Carolina


A team at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) led by Dr. Ryan Mieras is conducting intensive research on understanding coastal storm events using Blickfeld Cube 1 LiDAR sensors. Their goal is to develop a measuring system that can be rapidly installed at beaches to remotely measure water levels, waves, and the evolution of the beach profile during a storm event.


Rising sea levels and more frequent and severe storms threaten coastal regions worldwide, causing flooding and eroding coastlines. It is essential to research and understand these storm events to be able to predict their impact on barrier island and coastal communities and consequently take appropriate protection and mitigation measures.



As part of DUNEX (DUring Nearshore EXperiment), a multi-agency, academic, and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) collaborative community, Dr. Mieras deployed the Blickfeld Cube 1 LiDAR sensor, collecting data on changes in the beach profile, waves, and water levels at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Coastal Hydraulics Laboratory (CHL), Field Research Facility (FRF) in Duck, North Carolina, USA. The goal is to develop affordable and scalable remote sensing platforms to measure storm surge impacts on coastal areas. The requirements for such platforms are multifaceted: The sensors have to record both shoreline changes that take place over a longer period of time and larger spatial dimensions, as well as wave profiles that require fast and continuous data acquisition in a much narrower spatial field.

The configurable scan pattern of the Blickfeld LiDARs can fulfill these requirements and the sensors additionally provide the robustness needed to reliably capture 3D data on the coast. Compared to cameras, LiDAR data offers an additional dimension and is not affected by difficult lighting conditions or darkness. They therefore represent a valuable asset to coastal remote measurement systems.

The goal is to develop affordable and scalable remote sensing platforms to measure storm surge impact on coastal areas. The great flexibility in the configuration of the scan pattern and mounting of the Blickfeld sensors is a big advantage in achieving this goal.
Dr. Ryan Mieras
Assistant Professor of Coastal Engineering at University of North Carolina Wilmington


Beyond DUNEX, Mieras will continue his partnership with researchers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mieras says their next steps involve “synthesizing the data collected during the pilot campaign in August 2021, followed by development of algorithms that will filter the data and detect things like how far each wave traverses up the beach, and how much the beach elevation changes over time.”

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