A meta-analysis and review of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) imagery for terrestrial applications

Kunwar K. Singh, Amy E. Frazier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


Over the past decade, the remote-sensing community has eagerly adopted unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) as a cost-effective means to capture imagery at spatial and temporal resolutions not typically feasible with manned aircraft and satellites. The rapid adoption has outpaced our understanding of the relationships between data collection methods and data quality, causing uncertainties in data and products derived from UAS and necessitating exploration into how researchers are using UAS for terrestrial applications. We synthesize these procedures through a meta-analysis of UAS applications alongside a review of recent, basic science research surrounding theory and method development. We performed a search of the Web of Science (WoS) database on 17 May 2017 using UAS-related keywords to identify all peer-reviewed studies indexed by WoS. We manually filtered the results to retain only terrestrial studies (n = 412) and further categorized results into basic theoretical studies (n = 63), method development (n = 63), and applications (n = 286). After randomly selecting a subset of applications (n = 108), we performed an in-depth content analysis to examine platforms, sensors, data capture parameters (e.g. flight altitude, spatial resolution, imagery overlap, etc.), preprocessing procedures (e.g. radiometric and geometric corrections), and analysis techniques. Our findings show considerable variation in UAS practices, suggesting a need for establishing standardized image collection and processing procedures. We reviewed basic research and methodological developments to assess how data quality and uncertainty issues are being addressed and found those findings are not necessarily being considered in application studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5078-5098
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
Issue number15-16
StatePublished - Aug 18 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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