UCL Department of Geography


UCL Earth Observation (EO) group test new drone-mounted camera

9 December 2022

The cutting-edge equipment can map land surfaces in extremely fine detail.


The camera system can be used to look at wavelengths of light far beyond what the human eye can see.

It's been able to provide insight into things like crop health and growth stage, as well as contribute to models and satellite observations.

Purchased through UCL Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences' (SHS) Research Capital Equipment Funding, there are only a few such cameras in the UK, putting UCL at the forefront of research in this area.

The first test flight took place last month at the Rothamsted Research test field with help from project partners Rothamsted Research, as part of the NERC-BBSRC AgZero+ project.

Specialists from sensor manufacturer Headwall and supplier Analytik instructed the team on using the equipment to gather data, from early flight planning to post-data processing.

The flight itself was performed by Professor Mathias Disney and Dr Phil Wilkes, with the data collected being combined to create a test map of crop yield in Rothamsted.

Despite a few windy and cloudy days, the UAV and camera performed perfectly.

With the test flight completed, the team are now looking at the space-based collection of data on crop yields alongside colleagues from Rothamsted and the NERC National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO).

Professor Philip Lewis, PI of the AgZero+, said: "We’ve been very lucky to have the SHS Faculty fund this equipment.

"For us, it’s critical for providing field datasets for testing space-borne crop monitoring algorithms.

" Drones are great for lots of things involving relatively localised monitoring, and I’m sure there are other potential users of this kit at UCL who will use it for other imaginative purposes.

"It’s been great to collaborate with Rothamsted research on this work, and we look forward to future opportunities as part of AgZero+."

Watch the flight trial and data visualisation:

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://youtu.be/gCCkhkrDXc0


The team welcomes UCL users to borrow the equipment for research purposes; for further information, please contact Professor Mathias Disney.

This training includes Professor Philip Lewis, Professor Mathias Disney, Dr Phil Wilkes, Wanxing Yang, Feng Yin from the UCL Department of Geography Earth Observation Group, Andrew Riche and March Castle from Rothamsted Research, Hiran Vegad and Su Ozbek from Analytik and Francesco Beccari from Headwall.

They would like to thank the UCL Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences for providing funding and Ian Shield from Rothamsted Research for providing the test field and meeting room.