Image collection strategies and ground control points (GCPs) are of particular importance for uncrewed aerial vehicle combined with Structure-from-Motion (UAV–SfM) photogrammetry, and the generalization of their effects has proved elusive. This study designed various photogrammetric scenarios to investigate the effects of image collection strategies, ground control quantity, and their interaction on digital elevation model (DEM) errors and their spatial structure in high-relief terrain. The results of 1.77 × 105 UAV–SfM scenarios provide insights for improving UAV–SfM practices. A high image capture angle (20–40°) enhances camera calibration quality decreasing the magnitude and spatial correlation of errors. High camera inclination reduces the sensitivity of mean and standard deviation of error to flying height but not the spatial correlation of error. Including additional data (e.g. supplemented convergent images; images captured at multiple flying heights) has only a minor effect if imagery is highly inclined. GCPs provide more effective constraints than image collection strategies. The mean error and standard error decline quickly with a small number of GCPs and then become stable in all scenarios, but the spatial correlation of error can be further improved with increasing GCPs. However, the effects of GCP quantity do interact with image collection strategies. High camera inclination reduces requirements for GCPs, whilst strategies combining different flying heights and image orientations have little effect on necessary GCP quantity. The distribution of GCPs still affects the errors, but the effect of GCP distribution becomes less important with an increase in the number of GCPs. Finally, we show that UAV–SfM photogrammetric quality assessment should routinely assess the spatial dependence of error using a statistic like Moran’s I. The paper is available here or a copy can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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