The DroneLab is a research-group at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute led by Dr Karen Anderson, a remote sensing expert. We undertake cutting-edge scientific research, investigating spatial and temporal dynamics of environmental systems using lightweight, open-source drone technology. We combine customised drone surveys with state-of-the-art image processing approaches such as structure-from-motion photogrammetry.

In the field we ensure that our data products have very high spatial resolution and accuracy by complementing our flights with rigorous ground surveys and differential GPS.

We aim to produce high quality data that allow new fine-grained understanding of landscape processes. Using CAA-trained and accredited pilots and following robust methodological protocols, we are able to fly drones in a wide range of settings. 

There are many drone services who can deliver aerial photographs. We are different because at DroneLab we deliver high quality, quantitative aerial data. We exploit consumer-grade lightweight (sub 7kg) drones but we modify these for scientific survey purposes, so we are flexible in our approach and can modify our methodology to suit a wide range of applications.  Using research-driven approaches, our data products are the result of a highly refined methodology. We can provide validated products for customers and collaborators who require data with geomatics-level quality control.  We can also deliver similar quality products from kite platforms, which may be more suitable in areas where drone operations are risky or may lead to disturbance of animals or birds.

We can offer a range of environmental surveying solutions including: basic aerial photography and video capture, GIS-ready orthomosaic builds and full point cloud builds generated using structure-from-motion photogrammetry using either low accuracy GPS (10 m accuracy) or high accuracy (<10 cm) DGPS-calibrated and validated pathways. We follow a clear environmental ethic and will only undertake work for clients who are working on projects that align with our values. If you require fine-grained spatial data for your project please get in touch to discuss your ideas and requirements with us. We would love to work on projects where we can bring our expertise to bear on finding solutions to problems of environmental change. 

DroneLab offers bespoke training courses for scientists and practitioners who want to get airborne with their own drones. We can train you in drone operations for survey purposes, and we can offer advice on the best systems and sensors for your specific applications, if you want to develop drone operations of your own. We offer 1 day to 1 week courses. Our focus is on open-source drone solutions because we believe that these offer the greatest flexibility at the most competitive prices, and most importantly they allow users access to crucial flight parameter data which are essential for surveying purposes. 

Please feel free to contact us by email on dronelab@exeter.ac.uk to find out more.

For Initial enquires and quotes please fill out enquiry form so that we can help design a bespoke service to best serve your specific needs.

For details of the latest DroneLab research group work, evidencing our experience and expertise in data capture, please see the following recent publications: 

Spatial assessment of intertidal seagrass meadows using optical imaging systems and a lightweight drone

J Duffy, L Pratt, K Anderson, P Land, J Shutler

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, Volume 200, 5 January 2018, 169-180


Location, location, location: considerations when using lightweight drones in challenging environments

J Duffy, A Cunliffe, L DeBell, C Sandbrook, S Wich, J Shutler, I Myers-Smith, M Varela, K Anderson

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation


Lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles will revolutionize spatial ecology

K Anderson, KJ Gaston

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11 (3), 138-146


A UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)-approved operations manual for safe deployment of lightweight drones in research

A Cunliffe, K Anderson, JP Duffy, L DeBell

International Journal of Remote Sensing


A Grassroots Remote Sensing Toolkit Using Live Coding, Smartphones, Kites and Lightweight Drones

K Anderson, D Griffiths, L DeBell, S Hancock, JP Duffy, JD Shutler, ...

PLOS ONE 11 (5), e0151564


A 21st-century renaissance of kites as platforms for proximal sensing

JP Duffy, K Anderson

Progress in Physical Geography 40 (2), 352-361


Ultra-fine grain landscape-scale quantification of dryland vegetation structure with drone-acquired structure-from-motion photogrammetry

A. Cunliffe, R.E. Brazier, K. Anderson

Remote Sensing of Environment 183, 129–143


Water resource management at catchment scales using lightweight UAVs: current capabilities and future perspectives

L DeBell, K Anderson, RE Brazier, N King, L Jones

Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems 4 (1), 7-30