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An airborne scanning laser altimetry survey of Long Valley, California

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Between 28 September and 7 October 1995, we conducted an airborne laser altimetry experiment over the Long Valley caldera, California, in which each of two scanning laser altimeters (dubbed SLICER and RASCAL) were flown in a NASA T-39 jet aircraft. Operating concurrently were a Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance system and dual frequency receivers for precise navigation and post-flight calculation of the airplane trajectory relative to a ground station, and an inertial navigation system (INS) for attitude determination. Reduction of raw laser ranges requires merging the differential kinematic GPS aircraft trajectory and the INS data with the laser data, and determination of the atmospheric delay. Data geolocation consists of obtaining the centre location and the mean elevation within each footprint in a geodetic coordinate system. The elevation of Crowley Lake is recovered to an accuracy of ~3 cm or better from 3 km above ground level and crossover analysis indicates that the elevation estimates are consistent from pass to pass. We test our geolocation procedures by comparing laser-derived elevations with those determined in situ for recognizable ground features. A comparison of laser and GPS-derived positions shows that the horizontal accuracy is better than the diameter of the footprint and vertical accuracy is within the error inherent in the range measurement. A comparison of SLICER elevation data with digital elevation models (DEMs) of the region shows that the DEM data provides surface topography to within stated accuracy limits. Although research continues to utilize the full potential of laser altimetry data, our results constitute a successful demonstration that the technique may be used to perform geodetic monitoring of surface topographic changes.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California 92093-0225, USA 2: Laser Remote Sensing Branch/924, Laboratory for Terrestrial Physics, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA 3: Laboratory for Terrestrial Physics/920, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA

Publication date: 2000-08-15

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