Using drones to map habitat (training course)


course scheduled for 25 & 26 March 2020 deferred - details tbc


Face to Face courses are deferred. We are exploring online course potential.

UKCEH Lancaster, Lancaster Environment Centre, Library Avenue, Bailrigg, Lancaster, LA1 4AP Location map & travel directions

We also regularly run this course in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. Please express your interest here, so we can fix more dates and venues!


Students £499 (Early Bird Discount, then £549)

Professionals £599 (Early Bird Discount, then £649)

Refreshments and lunches are included in the cost. Accommodation and evening meals are not included in the cost

Short Course Description:

This two-day course will provide participants with the basic skills needed to take images collected from a UAV platform such as a quadcopter, process the images into a scene suitable for image processing, and generate classified images. We will talk you through the steps necessary to produce high quality and accurate maps suitable for the mapping of vegetation and landforms.

It will cover the following topics:

  • UK Civil Aviation Authority guidelines and the law
  • Drone technology
  • Aerial photography
  • Image stitching software
  • Image classification

This course is accredited by the Association for Geographic Information. We will award 9 CPD points.

Course Objectives:

  • Gain skills to create high quality and spatially accurate habitat classification maps from data you have captured using your UAV platform.
  • Learn how to create digital elevation and surface models.
  • Learn how to process these data to map the heights and locations of trees and vegetation or other features
  • Learn how to operate your UAV platform within the law
  • Gain  insight into some of the problems you may encounter when flying your aircraft
  • Learn how to bring together the data collected by your aircraft into a spatially accurate and informative map suitable for mapping habitats and change.

Hardware and Software requirements for this course

We are asking you to bring your own laptop with at least 8 MB RAM if possible. 

We will use a number of different software for the different stages of processing the images. Key principles will apply to whatever software you are using.

  • R Studio Desktop 1.2 (free open source software)
  • R programming language for the classification of data (free open source software)
  • spatial analysis software (QGIS TBC)
  • PhotoScan  (aka Metashape) for a demonstration of the photogrammetric processing of digital images. On request, we can also do a short demonstration in PIX4D 

Some prior knowledge of these will be an advantage, but not essential to benefit from the course. We will provide instructions where to locate this software and how to install it 2-3 weeks before the course starts


Accommodation is not included in the cost. More detail: see FAQ and please see our guide for accommodation near UKCEH Lancaster.




Intermediate - Course participants should be familiar with the manipulation and fusion of spatial data, GIS and/or image processing and UAV platforms for data capture. Knowledge of the programming language R an advantage.

Previous Course participants said:

"I have learnt a lot so this has been a very useful course & would recommend. "

Please express your interest here, so we can fix more dates and venues!

Course Leader:

Dr. Paul Scholefield, Ecological Modeller and Spatial Analyst, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Paul is researching the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)  for fine-scale mapping and habitat classification of remote environments. He is a qualified RPA-S pilot, and proficient in the use of UAV derived imagery to generate high-resolution habitat classification maps.

Other trainers:

Charles George, Earth Observation Scientist, UKCEH, will support the practical exercises. He is very experienced in using ArcGIS, Photoscan and R.

Relevant links and key publications:

Science takes to the skies with ‘Hollywood-style’ remote sensing drone technology.