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Planetary topography measurement by descent stereophotogrammetry

Brydon, G; Persaud, DM; Jones, GH; (2021) Planetary topography measurement by descent stereophotogrammetry. Planetary and Space Science , 202 , Article 105242. 10.1016/j.pss.2021.105242. Green open access

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Digital Terrain Models (DTMs) provide valuable insights into the nature of solar system surfaces, facilitating geological analysis, landing site selection and characterisation, and contextualising in situ measurements. For missions or solar system bodies for which orbiters and soft landed platforms are technologically or financially challenging to achieve, low mass descent or ascent probes (e.g. planetary penetrators) provide an alternative means by which to access the atmosphere and/or surface, and a platform from which to image the surface from a range of altitudes and perspectives. This paper presents a study into the concept of large-coverage descent stereophotogrammetry, whereby the stereo geometry of vertically offset wide-angle descent images is used to measure surface topography over a region of large extent. To do this, we simulate images of Mars’ Gale Crater using a large coverage, high resolution DTM of the area, and derive topographic measurements by stereo matching pairs of simulated images. These topographic measurements are compared directly with the original DTM to characterise their accuracy, and dependence of elevation measurement accuracy on stereo geometry is thus investigated. For a stereo pair with a given altitude (corresponding to the altitude of its lower image), error in elevation measurement is found to have its minimum value for surface at a horizontal distance between 1 and 3 times the altitude. For a point on the surface with given horizontal distance from the imaging location, a stereo imaging altitude between 0.2 and 0.5 times this distance is found to achieve best elevation measurement accuracy. Surface appearance, and its change between two images of a stereo pair, is found to have a significant impact on stereo matching performance, limiting stereo baseline length to an optimum value range of 0.2-0.4 times the lower image’s altitude, and resulting in the occurrence of occlusions and blind spots, particularly at oblique viewing angles.

Type: Article
Title: Planetary topography measurement by descent stereophotogrammetry
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.pss.2021.105242
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pss.2021.105242
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: stereophotogrammetry, descent, topography, wide-angle, simulation
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Space and Climate Physics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10127542
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