The sky is the limit: Reconstructing physical geography from an aerial perspective

Richard Williams, Stephen Tooth, Morgan Gibson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (SciVal)
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In an era of rapid geographical data acquisition, interpretations of remote sensing products are an integral part of many undergraduate geography degree schemes but there are fewer opportunities for collection and processing of primary remote sensing data. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) provide a relatively inexpensive opportunity to introduce the principles and practice of airborne remote sensing into field courses, enabling students to learn about image acquisition, data processing and interpretation of derived products. Two case studies illustrate how a low-cost “DJI Phantom Vision+” UAV can be used by students to acquire images that can be processed using Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry software. Results from a student questionnaire and analysis of assessed student reports showed that using UAVs enhanced student engagement and equipped them with data processing skills. The derivation of bespoke orthophotos and Digital Elevation Models has the potential to provide students with opportunities to gain insight into various remote sensing data quality issues, although additional training is required to maximize this potential. Recognition of the successes and limitations of this teaching intervention provides scope for improving future UAV exercises. UAVs are enabling both a reconstruction of how we measure the Earth’s surface and a reconstruction of how students do fieldwork.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-146
JournalJournal of Geography in Higher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2016


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