On the use of IMU (inertial measurement unit) sensors in geomorphology

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Inertial measurement units (IMUs) are mobile sensors assemblies constructed using a combination of MEMS (micro electrical mechanical systems) accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers. Both the technology and its applications to geomorphic problems are developing rapidly, since they demonstrate the prospect of monitoring individual sediment grains, of various sizes, during transport and at high frequency. This prospect has numerous implications which range from hazard identification and warning to complex theoretical derivations for sediment transport modelling. At the same time, the deployment of IMUs needs to be underpinned by a number of technical considerations regarding the limitations of the technology and the physics of the inertial measurements. IMU measurements should be reported in a manner that allows for clear understanding of the scope of the study, with sufficient detail for repeatability and clear error characterization. At a secondary level, IMU measurements should be linked clearly with the physics of sediment motion. Here the author highlights five technical issues which can lead to the misinterpretation of IMU measurements. His scope is to begin a dialogue towards a collective agreement on a presentation/reporting protocol for IMU measurements in geomorphic studies that will allow for the coherent contextualization of the technology and accelerate its scientific impact within geosciences.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2136-2140
    Number of pages5
    JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    The author wants to thank the two anonymous reviewers and the editors for their time and the very thoughtful comments on this manuscript and Dr Jeffrey Tuhtan for the long and inspiring discussions on the uses and the future of IMUs in natural settings. The author declares no conflicts of interest.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


    • IMU sensors
    • sediment tracking
    • sediment transport
    • sensor fusion
    • smart pebbles


    Dive into the research topics of 'On the use of IMU (inertial measurement unit) sensors in geomorphology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this