Flood inundation modeling in ungauged basins using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles imagery

Document Type: Original Article


1 Department of Civil Engineering, University of Qom, Qom, Iran & Isfahan Water and Waste Water Company, Isfahan Province, Iran

2 Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, Centre Eau Terre Environnement, 490, rue de la Couronne Québec (QC) G1K 9A9, Canada


This paper presents a new framework for floodplain inundation modeling in an ungauged basin using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) imagery. This method is based on the integrated analysis of high-resolution ortho-images and elevation data produced by the structure from motion (SfM) technology. To this end, the Flood-Level Marks (FLMs) were created from high-resolution UAV ortho-images and compared to the flood inundated areas simulated using the HEC-RAS hydraulic model. The flood quantiles for 25, 50, 100, and 200 return periods were then estimated by synthetic hydrographs using the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The proposed method was applied to UAV image data collected from the Khosban village, in Taleghan County, Iran, in the ungauged sub-basin of the Khosban River. The study area is located along one kilometre of the river in the middle of the village. The results showed that the flood inundation areas modeled by the HEC-RAS were 33%, 19%, and 8% less than those estimated from the UAV’s FLMs for 25, 50, and 100 years return periods, respectively. For return periods of 200 years, this difference was overestimated by more than 6%, compared to the UAV’s FLM. The maximum flood depth in our four proposed scenarios of hydraulic models varied between 2.33 to 2.83 meters. These analyses showed that this method, based on the UAV imagery, is well suited to improve the hydraulic modeling for seasonal inundation in ungauged rivers, thus providing reliable support to flood mitigation strategies