Impression of experimental dune-field and artwork Windwerk (left) and UAV acquired digital surface model (DSM) of part of this dune field (right)


MSc thesis subject: Assessing effects of dune size and spatial distribution on dune growth on the beach, Terschelling

Increasingly very-high resolution (VHR) images become available from camera systems attached to an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The high resolution offers new possibilities for studying interactions between land-surface processes and vegetation.

In the Netherlands we need continuous sand nourishments to maintain our natural coastal defences. One of the open question is how we can further improve natural defences by stimulating new dune formation. For this we need more information on the first stages of dune formation: the embryo dune stage. 

In March 2016 we set up a big planting experiment on Terschelling with the help of landscape artists ( The experiment had both an artistic and scientific goal. The artistic goal was to illustrate dune forming processes for a broader public during the cultural festival Oerol in 2016. The scientific goal was to explore 1) the effects of dune size and spatial configuration of dunes on sedimentation and erosion dynamics and 2) explore the potential of such dune fields as a coastal defense measure.

Since its establishment the dune field has been monitored with a rotary octocopter UAV system with camera.  


  • Make Digital surface models (DSM) and NDVI maps of time-series of UAV-acquired images
  • Calculate changes in surface elevation and changes in plot NDVI through time
  • Relate changes in surface elevation of field- and dunes to 1) environmental characteristics, incl NDVI, 2) meteorological data and 3) changes in surface elevation of beach plain and landward dunes
  • Discuss causality of these relationships and their implication for dune building and coastal defense


  • Long, N.; Millescamps, B.; Guillot, B.; Pouget, F.; Bertin, X. Monitoring the Topography of a Dynamic Tidal Inlet Using UAV Imagery. Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 387.
  • Mancini, F.; Dubbini, M.; Gattelli, M.; Stecchi, F.; Fabbri, S.; Gabbianelli, G. Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for High-Resolution Reconstruction of Topography: The Structure from Motion Approach on Coastal Environments. Remote Sens. 2013, 5, 6880-6898.


  • Interest in using remote sensing data/products in empirical (hypothesis-driven) research.

Theme(s): Sensing & measuring, Integrated Land Monitoring