PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2021, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (9): 1590-1599.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2021.09.013

• Industrial Applications of UAV • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Application of unmanned aerial vehicle in glacier change monitoring: Taking the Xiao Dongkemadi Glacier in the Tanggula Mountains as an example

XUE Yu'ang1,2(), JING Zhefan1,*(), KANG Shichang1,2   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science, Northwest Institute of Eco-environment and Resources, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2020-09-24 Revised:2021-02-04 Online:2021-09-28 Published:2021-09-28
  • Contact: JING Zhefan;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41671071)


In recent years, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology has experienced a great improvement. Due to its flexibility and super-high resolution, UAV has a great development potential in the field of glacier change monitoring. In this study, three UAV surveys were conducted, for the first time above 5400 m altitude, at the Xiao Dongkemadi Glacier, which is located in the Tanggula Mountains on the central Tibetan Plateau. Three UAV products were co-registered based on the reference points of bedrocks around the glacier. Then, we analyzed the ablation pattern of the glacier in a year of balance and ablation season, and further explored the application of UAV in glacier change monitoring and discussed the problems we met, as well as advantages of UAV, to provide some guidance for future research. Our results show that the UAV technology is suitable for the change monitoring in a single and small glacier. It can be used to monitor glacier changes in terminal, area, surface elevation, and detail glacier features.

Key words: UAV, photogrammetry, remote sensing, glacier change, Xiao Dongkemadi Glacier