High-resolution mapping based on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to capture paleoseismic offsets along the Altyn-Tagh fault, China

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Scientific Reports, Volume 7 (2017)


The recent dramatic increase in millimeter- to centimeter- resolution topographic datasets obtained via multi-view photogrammetry raises the possibility of mapping detailed offset geomorphology and constraining the spatial characteristics of active faults. Here, for the first time, we applied this new method to acquire high-resolution imagery and generate topographic data along the Altyn Tagh fault, which is located in a remote high elevation area and shows preserved ancient earthquake surface ruptures. A digital elevation model (DEM) with a resolution of 0.065 m and an orthophoto with a resolution of 0.016 m were generated from these images. We identified piercing markers and reconstructed offsets based on both the orthoimage and the topography. The high-resolution UAV data were used to accurately measure the recent seismic offset. We obtained the recent offset of 7 ± 1 m. Combined with the high resolution satellite image, we measured cumulative offsets of 15 ± 2 m, 20 ± 2 m, 30 ± 2 m, which may be due to multiple paleo-earthquakes. Therefore, UAV mapping can provide fine-scale data for the assessment of the seismic hazards.