WASHINGTON -Each year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) executes numerous federal beach projects designed to help protect the economy and the environment of our nation's coastal areas. However, little data is available for many of these projects because of high costs, restricted access and safety. This means districts must make decisions based on very limited information, resulting in inaccurate estimates and reactive management decisions.
CorpsCam is a new USACE project that aims to fill this void by using automated, remote video technology to better monitor federal beach and other coastal projects. The cameras provide hourly images that can be processed into maps, which can then be refined into usable data.
The rapid remote sensing data collected from CorpsCam stations can substantially improve the ability to collect coastal geospatial products for project monitoring and immediate decision support without time-consuming and costly field visits.
“The idea is that a district sets up one of these cameras, and within an hour, they can see the state of their beach,” said Dr. Brittany Bruder, a coastal research engineer with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Coastal Hydraulics Laboratory. “Over time, you can see the beach is eroding, or you can see the channel is shoaling. We just didn’t have that data before. Usually there was a survey before and after construction, and we couldn’t really observe how the project evolved or how it was going to evolve.”
Currently, there are three tiers to the CorpsCam system — CoastSnap, trail cameras and Argus.
CoastSnap engages citizen scientists to take photos with their cellphones from a designated mount and then upload those photos via a weblink to be processed for data. This enables sporadic qualitative monitoring of beach state, beach area and erosion rates.
Trail cameras are self-contained, commercial off-the-shelf cameras that are easy to install and autonomously capture and send imagery every hour, giving a more robust picture for disposal tracking, sandbar position, trafficability and safety.
The Argus system is the more scientific option with self-contained, scientific-grade cameras that autonomously capture and send imagery and video. The units are rapidly deployable and provide information on bathymetry, current speed and direction, and wave parameters.
“We’ve set them all up to be integrated into our network,” said Bruder. “We’ve set up our data infrastructure so that the images come in securely, and then they are disseminated securely as well.”
A public website is also currently in the works.
“It's helpful, because it’s also a very good public tool,” said Bruder. “It’s a cliché, but it’s true — an image speaks a thousand words. It’s a very easy way to communicate the state of the beach with the public.
“Users can go to the website, see the live image and then click through time to see how the project’s evolved. There’s just a few more tweaks, but it’s going to be made public very soon.”
The CorpsCam system will also allow project response to seasonal and short-term wave and storm events to be better understood, which will enhance planning and impact analysis at beach projects. Districts will have high-value coastal monitoring data that will be integrated into engineering decisions and adaptive management practices. These practices include beach fills and nourishment; actions to protect against storm surge and wave-generated erosion; construction of shore structures, such as sea walls, breakwaters and revetments to protect against flooding and erosion; and regional sediment management projects.
“Having a better understanding -- or a more holistic understanding -- of our projects gives us better designs and adaptive management that can ultimately save districts money in potential damages,” Bruder said. “When you have increased understanding, you get improved predictions and better solutions.”